I'm getting ready for National Novel Writing Month in November, and to prepare myself, I've been reading If You Want to Write. First published in 1938, Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write is said by some to be the ur-text to modern inspirational writing texts.
Ueland compares the creative process to listening to God inside yourself:
"Now this creative power I think is the Holy Ghost. My theology may not be very accurate, but that is how I think of it. I know that William Blake called this creative power the Imagination, and he said it was God. He, if anyone, ought to know, for he was one of the greatest poets and artists that ever lived. Now Blake thought that this creative power should be kept alive in all people for all of their lives. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the Spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears."
She learned a lot about the process by reading van Gogh's letters:
"But the moment I read van Gogh's letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate, and true way, you try to show this beauty in things to others, by (recreating) it.
Ueland also learned about the creative process from her writing students:
"I learned from (my students) that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten--happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another."
All this reading about the creative process arising from the divine and inspiration and enthusiasm led me to look up the etymology of the words "inspiration" and "enthusiasm."
So there you go. Apparently, this idea of writing as led by a divine spirit is an old one.
Let's hope I can be filled with enthusiasm and inspiration this November.
Photos: Top photo is a photo I took of a writer in a cafe in New York City in 2011. Bottom photo is a photo I took of a writer in a cafe in Paris in 2020.
Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative! It was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion and is now hosted at Elza Reads.