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5 Inspiring Quotes by Brenda Ueland

{Something Inspiring is a series of short essays that highlight an articlephoto, or campaign that inspired me. Enjoy!}

Whenever I struggle with writing, I turn to my tools. Today I felt stuck and decided to start reading “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. I’m only a quarter of the way through the book and I’m already inspired, so I wanted to share a few of Ueland’s words with you . . .

“Everybody is talented because everyone who is human has something to express. Try not expressing anything for twenty-four hours and see what happens.”

“Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be.”

“You have noticed how teachers, critics, parents, and other know-it-alls, when they see you have written something, become at once long-nosed and finicking and go through it gingerly sniffing out the flaws. AHA! a misspelled word! as though Shakespeare could spell! As though spelling, grammar and what you learn in a book about rhetoric has anything to do with freedom and the imagination!”

“So you see the imagination needs moodling, – a long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

“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.”

Whenever I read quotes like these, I’m reminded that I’m not alone and that’s why I constantly turn to books for reassurance. Ueland’s words inspire me to keep writing and taking photos even when I feel like a poser. I’m reminded that creative work of any kind will stretch me. In the moment the stretch might not feel good, but over the long-run stretching my mind is how I stay flexible and open. In short, flexing my creative muscle daily is one way I’ve achieved many dreams.

Who or what do you turn to for reassurance? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Speaking of inspiring stuff, my friend Meg is releasing a sweet little book on Friday, November 11th. Click here for the details.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Frank November 9, 2011, 4:28 pm

    Thanks for this Tammy! I’ve been dipping my toe in the fiction writing pond lately and feeling rather uninspired. I’m getting back into reading and writing fiction after spending my teens reading way too much non-fiction for my own good. Been feeling a bit uninspired, unmotivated, and worthless. I think I’ll check out Miss Ueland’s book!

    • Tammy Strobel November 9, 2011, 5:45 pm

      @Frank – Keep writing and please check out Ueland’s book. Writing Down the Bones is another one of my favorite resources too. I’m going to re-read it this week.

      Good luck!

  • Sandra / Always Well Within November 9, 2011, 5:00 pm


    It helps us all to know that you get stuck sometimes too. You’ve accomplished so much using your creative muscle everyday; what you’ve done is a huge inspiration to all of us. We’re all human though. So it helps so much to see the resources you turn to when you feel stuck. That gives us new options too. Thanks for sharing these quotes with us.

    • Tammy Strobel November 9, 2011, 5:44 pm

      @Sandra – Thanks for the sweet words.

      You are right on the money. Everyone gets stuck. Reading always helps when I’m feeling blahh. 🙂 Thanks for reading the blog!

  • Sunday November 9, 2011, 5:14 pm

    thank you SO much for this, Tammy. I’m definitely going through a period of frustration/excitement with writing and these quotes help 🙂

    • Tammy Strobel November 9, 2011, 5:42 pm

      @Sunday – I’m sorry you’ve been going through a period of frustration. I highly recommend checking out Brenda’s book. It’s really good! Keep writing!

  • Terri November 9, 2011, 6:03 pm

    thanks. “moodling” is my new favorite word. 🙂

  • Jennifer November 9, 2011, 7:37 pm

    I’ve been a lurker here for some time but when I read that you turned to Brenda for guidance through your writing struggles, well, I just had to leave a comment. Her book was amazingly simple, in theory, to read but darn hard to put into practice. She was a gifted teacher and I’m so glad she wrote this book!


    BTW: Congrats on the new house!

  • Katie November 10, 2011, 5:41 am

    I shall add Brenda’s book to my go-to writing books – which also include; Goldberg’s The Wild Mind, King’s On Writing, Cameron’s The Sound of Paper and Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Thanks Tammy, for sharing your writing journey – the ups and the downs. We all have them and no, you are not alone.

  • Ryan November 10, 2011, 6:21 am

    I remember when I first stumbled across “If You Want to Write” at my library… and after reading the first chapter, quickly checking it out. I was treated to a fantastic book that sheds light not only on writing but on optimizing the creative spirit in general, for all artistic pursuits. I’m so glad you found it! Enjoy the second half of the book (it is now doubt that you are already more than a quarter way through.)

    A car-free friend,

  • Jean | Delightful Repast November 10, 2011, 6:28 am

    “Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be.” Well said! I’ve written for magazines for years, but only started my food blog February 2010 (about the time I started reading food blogs). One thing I’ve noticed in that genre of blogs is the inordinate number of bloggers who are imitating the style of a very well-known blogger. I just want to tell them, “Yes, she is wonderful and amusing. But that’s her. Let’s hear who *you* are, what *you* have to say.”

    PS I love your little house!

  • Jen November 10, 2011, 6:37 am

    “You have noticed how teachers, critics, parents, and other know-it-alls…”

    What makes people blame teachers for creative woes?

    eEf wei nivur lrnud proopur spulung et woold b deefekult two xpruss r-sulvus no$

    My perceived prejudices of Uelan’s aside, Tammy, I do like the reminder to look at others for help kick-starting our own creativity.

    • Tammy Strobel November 10, 2011, 7:31 pm

      @Jen – I would encourage you to read the book before judging Uelan. 🙂 She’s a teacher.

      All quotes have context and in this particular chapter she was talking about empowering students, rather criticizing them.

      • Jen November 11, 2011, 5:15 am

        Thanks. I know that intent doesn’t always come across out of context (why I said perceived) so it’s good to know it’s mostly my protective instincts coming out. Both of my parents and my spouse are teachers so I get defensive. 🙂

        • Patricia November 15, 2011, 8:36 pm

          Jen, I had that exact same reaction. Both my parents were teachers and I have internalized the frustration with “teachers” being listed as a problem. While some teachers are a great stopper on the learning process, I’ve had so many that are tremendous guides that it’s frustrating to see them listed in that sentence. Thanks for making my point before I could.

        • Jen November 21, 2011, 7:38 am

          Hi Patricia, Thanks for the backup. I’m glad to know that there’s someone else out there who feels the same way.

  • Nichole November 10, 2011, 8:00 am

    Thank you so much for this post. A big part of my job is writing in someone else’s voice. It strains me and makes me feel like my writing is lackluster. So I turn a bit inward and sprinkle little bits of myself into my work, and voila, it feels more authentic and translates what the client wants. But this is something I have to remind myself to do. Someday it will come naturally.

    My new favorite word is “moodling.”

  • Cynthia November 10, 2011, 2:28 pm

    Tammy – thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I just found your blog today, and am so inspired. I particularly liked “Everyone is original if he thinks for himself…”. I’m struggling with changing my blog’s focus, and posts like this really help me find clarity.

    Someone else here mentioned this resource, but “Writing Down the Bones” is one of my favorites.

  • karen November 13, 2011, 3:25 pm

    Thanks Tammy, I needed that encouragement today. my brain is scrambling everthing but I still want to write, so I will & hope I can untanglle the spelling some time later if I choose too.

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