“Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first, – at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, light-hearted, and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve. Colds will disappear and all the other ailments of discouragement and boredom.” Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
At last, a cure for the common cold, and all other pesky ailments of modern life. Pick up a pen and some paper, park yourself in front of computer screen or even dust the cobwebs off the old Olivetti (that’s a typewriter, for those of you too young to remember). Write every day, and, like eating an apple, you’ll be warding the doctor from your door.
Sounds ridiculous, but perhaps there really is something to Ms. Ueland’s thesis. Writing may not literally protect you from germs or disease, but I believe writing does strengthen the spirit as well as the mind. Since I’ve taken up the habit of writing in earnest, pledging myself to putting words on the page every day, I realize my mind works differently, exercising muscles in my brain that had lain fallow for years. My vision of the world around me is more intense, my eyes and ears more observant to the details of appearance and conversation, my heart more open and empathetic to others. I have become a keen observer of life in general and my own in particular, more aware of the things that spark anger or move me to tears.
I am more alive when I write. I cherish life more when I write about it.
When I was very young, I harbored dreams about becoming a “real writer.” What was that? Someone whose name was on the cover of books, or underneath the headline in the New York Times. Someone whose words were read and acclaimed by “the world.” When that dream failed to materialize, I let writing disappear from my life, sure that if I couldn’t be one of those “real writers,” there was no value in pursuing it at all.
But I have come to believe as Brenda Ueland (and many other writers) believe –
that “no writing is a waste of time, no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding.”
So I continue to put words on paper – in the dozens of notebooks I have scattered around my house, and on the computer screen in front of me now, sometimes on the backs of grocery receipts or paper napkins at the coffee shop. I allow words to unravel from my brain like thread from a dropped spool – quickly, sometimes crazily – onto the page, holding the essence of some thought, some image, some impression, some snippet of conversation that seems to carry meaning for a moment. I look at the world like a poem, and try to capture my seconds on earth in each stanza.
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