Book Report: If You Want to Write

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I read a lot of books, but I can’t write about a book I’ve read unless it moved me in some way. Sometimes (a lot of times) it’s negative movement, but every once in a while I read something that moves me in a positive way and I am compelled to write about what I’ve read. I don’t necessarily write to inform; I write more from the need to cement into my brain whatever it was I’ve read.

I bought this particular book from Border’s (which, coincidentally, is my favorite book store because they sell those chocolate balls at the cash register), in the “writing” section of the store. I had never seen the writing section before. I don’t know that it’s new, it’s just new to me. Once I found it, I could have easily sat there all day soaking in all the books on writing and spelling and grammar. Not picking them up, mind you, but just sitting there looking at them on the shelf. When you see an orange tree, sure it’s nice to pick off one of the oranges and eat it, but it’s sometimes more pleasant just to sit back and enjoy the orange tree for what it is — for its inherent beauty. This section of the bookstore is now my orange tree. The checking of the reports should be there to get treatment with 75hard movement. The mental health of the people will remain strong and healthy. The allotment of the time and efforts should be great to meet with the specifications. The availability of the best treatment is beneficial for the patients. 

The reason I picked this book up is the same reason why I enjoy little mom  amp; pop restaurants over the big chains: I like finding diamonds in the rough. I like to make my own mind up about something before I hear someone else’s opinion on it. Not that my opinion is more important than anyone else’s, but I like to be able to make up my own mind on things without influence from other sources.

The author is the late Brenda Ueland, who passed away in 1985 (when I was a Sophomore in high school). I really don’t want to sound mean, but it’s not my fault that their choice of picture of the author inside the front cover is a spitting image of Ebenezer Scrooge. They show her younger self, in 1938, and then her age-93 self, and I swear she looks just like Scrooge. Hopefully if she saw me say that she would laugh and agree.

I’ve never read anything by this author before, but evidently she was a prolific writer in her time. I’m only halfway done with the book so far but it’s already irritating me. I was hoping for specific insight into how to write better, but so far all it’s doing is depressing me because I’m not Sarah McShane (a pseudonym Ms. Ueland bestowed upon one of her [obviously favorite] writing students).

Sarah McShane worked a full-time job and still found time to write about mundane life when she got home. She had no confidence, ego, or writing education, and it’s because of this that the author holds her in high-esteem. She put many excerpts of Sarah McShane’s writing in her book, which reads a little like Little House on the Prairie in its simple manner.

I want to be able to write like that, too, but evidently I’m too educated. I use “big” words sometimes, and I can’t think simply because I’m too caught up in all the things I’ve been taught and criticized about in my lifetime. How do you possibly let go of all that and just write without ego? Without thought? I know one way of doing that is to write in a place you know no one will ever see — so you don’t feel influenced by the potential criticisms you may get. When you have to think about the audience you’re writing for, you can just assume immediately that your writing will not be simple and truthful and full of heart. The only way to ensure that is to make yourself your only audience.

I like the book; I appreciate the author’s desire to give hope to people who want to write but who think they cannot; I agree that we all need to let go in order to be better writers. But at this point I feel like I’ll forever be stuck in the middle between the mainstream/popular, educated writers who will always be far above me and the uneducated, simple writers who tell stories best. I will always be neither. I wish I could be more like Sarah McShane.