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Brenda Ueland

  • Inspiration comes very slowly and quietly.

  • ... we are always afraid to start something that we want to make very good, true, and serious.

  • Consistency is the horror of the world.

  • Duty should be a byproduct.

  • Why should we all use our creative power? ... 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.

  • People who try to boss themselves always want (however kindly) to boss other people. They always think they know best and are so stern and resolute about it they are not very open to new and better ideas.

  • So remember these two things: you are talented and you are original. Be sure of that. I say this because self-trust is one of the very most important things in writing ...

  • ... it is when you are really living in the present—working, thinking, lost, absorbed in something you care about very much, that you are living spiritually.

  • These people who are always briskly doing something and as busy as waltzing mice, they have little, sharp, staccato ideas, such as: 'I see where I can make an annual cut of $3.47 in my meat budget.' But they have no slow, big ideas.

  • Know that it is good to work. Work with love and think of liking it when you do it. It is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear of failure.

  • ... since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable.

  • I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten, — happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.

  • So you see the imagination needs moodling, — long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.

  • I learned ... that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to 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.

  • The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny ...

  • Now some people when they sit down to write and nothing special comes, no good ideas, are so frightened that they drink a lot of strong coffee to hurry them up, or smoke packages of cigarettes, or take drugs or get drunk. They do not know that ideas come slowly, and that the more clear, tranquil and unstimulated you are, the slower the ideas come, but the better they are.

  • We are always doing something, talking, reading, listening to the radio, planning what next. The mind is kept naggingly busy on some easy, unimportant external thing all day.

  • ... when I am really alone some power seems to grow in me. ... Conjugality made me think of a three-legged race, where two people cannot go fast and keep tripping each other because their two legs are tied together.

  • … the death of any loved parent is an incalculable lasting blow. Because no one ever loves you again like that.

  • Children are so afraid of us because they know we may try to keep them from making their biggest and most important mistakes.

  • ... the spirit, I think, is a stream, a fountain, and must be continually poured out, for only if it is poured out will more and clearer streams come.

  • I know that we live after death and again and again, not in the memory of our children, or as a mulch for trees and flowers, however poetic that may be, but looking passionately and egocentrically out of our eyes.

  • My motto for child raising: 'Always be careful never to cross a child.'

  • ... we like fixed rules because that ends thinking and we can rest. But there is no resting place down here.

  • If I did not wear torn pants, orthopedic shoes, frantic disheveled hair, that is to say, if I did not tone down my beauty, people would go mad. Married men would run amuck.

  • ... running is the right thing to do! I am free, healthy with a good complexion. It is that automobile addict who should be ashamed: driving in a sealed car in warmed-over carbon monoxide and smoking a seegar. I am the Goddess! He is a bug in a monkey nut!

  • Science and vivisection make no appeal to a theological idea, much less a political one. You can argue with a theologian or a politician, but doctors are sacrosanct. They know; you do not. Science has its mystique much more powerful than any religion active today.

  • ... vivisection is not the same thing as scientific progress. There is such a thing as scientific progress. But this wholesale dedication of scientists to vivisection, which is the easy and cheap way, actually prevents them from scientific progress, for true progress is difficult and requires genius and imagination in its devoted workers.

  • ... listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. You can see that when you think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.

    • Brenda Ueland,
    • "Tell Me More," in The Ladies' Home Journal ()
  • When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.

  • ... it is only by expressing all that is inside that purer and purer streams come. ... Pour out the dull things on paper too—you can tear them up afterward—for only then do the bright ones come. If you hold back the dull things, you are certain to hold back what is clear and beautiful and true and lively.

  • Unless you listen, people are weazened in your presence; they become about a third of themselves. Unless you listen, you can't know anybody. Oh, you will know facts and what is in the newspapers and all of history, perhaps, but you will not know one single person. You know, I have come to think listening is love, that's what it really is.

  • ... listening, not talking, is the gifted and great role, and the imaginative role. And the true listener is much more beloved, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective, and learns more and does more good.

  • ... in true courage there is always an element of choice, of an ethical choice, and of anguish, and also of action and deed. There is always a flame of spirit in it, a vision of some necessity higher than oneself.

  • You must become aware of the richness in you and come to believe in it and know it is there, so that you can write opulently and with self-trust. If you once become aware of it and have faith in it, you will be all right.

    • Brenda Ueland,
    • in Eric Maisel, Fearless Creating ()

Brenda Ueland, U.S. writer

(1891 - 1985)