Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More on writing

I want to assure you with all earnestness, 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. I know that. Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make another cent from it, I would still keep on writing.        -- Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit (1987, Gray Wolf, ISBN 1-55597-260-8, p 15.)
My first moodling back in September made mention of Brenda Ueland by way of her being the woman who coined the word "moodle." Her book makes its home on my writing desk. It's my permanent reminder that writing is a good thing, something that I forget from time to time.

Being a writer since my first and only "book" was published in grade two, I've never stopped. I wrote myself through many journals in my angsty adolescence; into friendship with Cathy, my longterm penpal, who gave me Ueland's book and our very own writing club; into lifelong romance with my husband via loveletters that flew fast and furious across a hundred kilometres; and out of something I laughingly dubbed "semantic what-cha-ma-call-it" (aka the inability to recall and use more than two syllable words) when my daughters were small. Writing has been a joy to me all my life. It has helped me sort things out, find meaning, and share stories.

Unfortunately, it hasn't always been easy to believe in writing as something essential, even though it brings me so much pleasure. I have always had to fight the feeling that writing is a waste of time that could be spent doing other, more important things, whether it was studying for an exam, marking papers, doing the housework that never seems to go away, or getting a real job. There is always an excuse to avoid that which makes us happy, some duty that calls and keeps calling. But Brenda Ueland was right. No writing is a waste of time. I treasure my journals, letters, and stories from years gone by. As I have grown older, I've come to realize that getting the dust off the top of the refrigerator isn't nearly as satisfying as crafting a novel (or a moodling), and besides, the dust will still be there when I'm done, whereas, if I don't get an idea down quickly, it tends to disappear.

The other thing that makes it hard for an amateur writer to believe that her writing is important is the big box book store. If having a book on the shelf is a sign of success, I'm anything but a successful writer, so why continue -- especially if it isn't actually my lifelong goal to have a book on one of those shelves? The fact that I've written a novel that wouldn't fit on one shelf or another as far as genre goes gives me a rather hopeless feeling... until I remember that the person I wrote the book for quite enjoyed it, so I have succeeded, and who cares about the bookstore? If my novel should, by some miracle, end up published, that wouldn't make it any more successful, really. What matters is that I experienced the joy of completing a story that took seven years to somehow write itself, a story with a climax that took my best friend completely by surprise even though we'd discussed its possibility at one point. That in itself made the whole effort worthwhile.

For most of my life I've tried to write while my family was otherwise engaged. It hasn't always worked out very well in that I'd start as soon as the girls were in bed and end up writing until the wee hours when Lee was away on business trips, and inevitably be a cranky single parent the next day. Or there were the times that I'd just gotten rolling on a writer's block inducing section of novel, and it was time to pick up some child or other from someplace or other. When my novel neared its end, my poor family was basically ignored as I wrote like a madwoman, muttering to myself or giggling with glee.  Lee joked that he was a writing widower, and my kids complained that I couldn't hear them over the characters in my head as I wrote to the finish line.

Fortunately, moodling doesn't require the same intense concentration. My burning writing is behind me, unless I start the next novel that's bumping around in my brain. I'm trying to hold off on that until our girls have left home or are otherwise occupied so that they won't feel ignored by their mother. Until then, I'm enjoying my quick moodling jaunts in that they keep my writer's awareness sharp and "semantic what-cha-ma-call-it" at bay without removing me from the really important things that are happening at home.

I'm going on about writing here because it's my thing, but there are so many simple ways to find joy through creativity, like knitting, dancing, singing, refinishing antiques, building rockets, baking, or a thousand other things I don't have time to list. Writing, as a creative outlet, has made me a happier person. I have learned a lot from the process of letting characters develop and story lines progress. It's been almost as good as watching a garden grow, or a child. For the record, I'm still hoping my novel will be published somehow, as I think the story can do some good for a particular social agency in my hometown. I'll be sure to let you know when something happens in that regard.

The point is, it's wonderful to exercise creativity. It may even be essential to happiness. As I'm not actually a great or accomplished writer, I'm going to let Brenda Ueland end this moodling with a little piece of her wisdom:
...Why should we all use our creative power and write or paint or play music, or whatever it tells us to do?
     Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. Because the best way to know Truth or Beauty is to try to express it. And what is the purpose of existence Here or Yonder but to discover truth or beauty and express it, ie. share it with others? (p.179.)


  1. Very beautiful! We are certainly on the same page here. I write for me. For others. For my spirit. For fun. Thank you for giving me "justification" in that. It is worthwhile. Well said...I mean...written!

  2. If you can get your hands on Brenda Ueland's book, it's full of wonderful justification! Worth a read.


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