Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Have Something to Say about a Hot Pink Tank

"Everybody is talented, original and has
something important to say..."
~Brenda Ueland

Some days I feel I spend more time thinking of writing than I do actual writing. In fact, I know I do. I consider it lazy procrastination. Instead of sitting my toosh in the chair, and writing, I piddle, doodle, paint, pull weeds, organize and think about writing.

Then there are those productive days when I never leave the desk, not even for food. I feel like a six-year-old again, waiting until the very last moment to use the restroom (pardon my frankness, however, it's true.). From the kitchen I hear the girls and Jesse calling to me, "What's for supper, Mom?" My answer, in short, "Fix a sandwich or something!"

I do have a point to this post, in case you're wondering. We'll get to the hot pink tank, too.

Yesterday, I cashed my part-time job's paycheck, and decided I would take a portion of it and do what I enjoy tremendously. Thrift store shopping. Call me cheap, but I prefer the word frugal.

As a child, thrift stores and garage sales mortified me. I recall stopping at garage sales with my mother or grandmother and slinking down in the front seat of the car, in 100 degree weather, and hiding from the other shoppers. I wouldn't dare step foot in a thrift store, let alone tell ANYONE the cool outfit I had on a school was purchased at a local thrift store. When a friend or acquaintance would ask where I bought my awesome shirt, I would name the current hip store where all the rich kids shopped.

We were far from rich. With five kids, garage sales, thrift stores and hand-me-downs were all the rage.

The first store I entered yesterday had a 1/2 price sale on their books. Hot dog! I zoomed over to the miscellaneous section, where they usually put the writing how-to's. I noticed a spine title, "If You Want to Write," and recognized the author.

Brenda Ueland, an individual whose writing career only consisted of two published books, is best known for If You Want to Write. I've heard other writer friends speak of this book. It was first published in 1938. The paperback copy I found yesterday was a second edition from 1987, published by the late Ms. Ueland's estate.

The first quote written across the back of the book caused me to peek around and make sure no one was going to snatch the book from my hands. It was as if I was a teenage girl who'd found the last hot pink, spaghetti strapped tank at a Hollister sale. I snickered, giddy with finding the last hot pink tank. I was relieved to see there were no competitors around me. I would've went down fighting.

The quote on the back of the book read, "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say..."

I answered her (out loud), "Yes, I do!"

I clutched the book tightly, and paid a whopping quarter for it! 

At the next thrift store, I found the cutest, most eclectic pair of dress capri pants. (I'll post a pic of them soon.) Next week at my daughter's senior banquet, if someone asks me where I found my adorable pants, I'll be sure to tell them at a boutique on the square in town. Nobody needs to know it's a "boutique" ran by the local hospice center, and it is located on the town square.

Let's get back to the book, If You Want to Write. Of course, I began reading it soon after I arrived home. There's a smashed bug of some sort, with its yellow guts smeared on the author's bio page, and the name and number of the book's previous owner. I'm curious about who "Terri" is. She'll probably think I'm a stalker if I call her, and ask why she got rid of the book or ask her how she liked it. It would probably be in my best interest not to contact her.

Ms. Ueland writes about criticism and how it kills the writer's creativity. She states that she "hates" it because it "snuffs" out creative, gifted people all the time. "It is a murderer of talent." She's not talking about constructive criticism; she's speaking of what makes you think you can write? kind of criticism. I know when I have people, even family members, ask why I'm writing, my creative bubbles burst and disappear inside. Doubt and lack of support are murderous, I agree.

She goes on to say, "We writers are the most lily-livered of all craftsmen. We expect more, for the most peewee efforts, than any other people. A gifted woman writes a poem. It is rejected. She does not write another perhaps for two years, perhaps all her life. Think of the patience and love that a tap-dancer or vaudeville acrobat puts into his work. Think of how many times Kreisler has practiced trills. If you will write as many words as Kreisler has practiced trills I prophesy that you will win the Nobel Prize in ten years."

I love this! Don't you find this true in many writer's cases? A few rejections and they plunge their heads in the sand. I know, I'm one of them! The message she was trying to give in her comparison, was WRITE and don't stop, no matter what. At least that's what I got out of it. I seriously doubt I'll ever win a Nobel Prize, but actually getting my work that's something I can strive for.

She also gave me permission to piddle or "putter" as she states, and I quote her, "So you see the imagination needs moodling,--long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering...But do not feel, anymore, guilty about idleness and solitude." She goes on to say, "The dreamy idleness that children have, an idleness when you walk alone for a long, long time, or take a long, dreamy time at dressing, or lie in bed at night and thoughts come and go, or dig in a garden, or drive a car for many hours alone, or play the piano, or sew, or paint ALONE; or an idleness--and this is what I want you to do--where you sit with pencil and paper or before a typewriter quietly putting down what you happen to be thinking, that is creative idleness."

Spoken like a true genius, for me. Creative idleness as she calls it, is a rejuvenator for me. I believe Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way calls it ,"filling the well." Julia and Brenda were on the same mental wave length when they wrote their books, only they were a century apart.

Ms. Ueland's book is way better than a hot pink tank, at least when you're me, it is.

I'm thankful for Ms. Ueland, giving me permission to idle creatively. I've blogged to you all, walked the dog, watered the vegetable garden, had a run-in with the rooster, played with my new six baby ducks, and later after lunch, I'm going to finish my "Why did the chicken cross the road" sign for my driveway, and finish my latest chapter of Vinegaroon Moon.

This afternoon when I'm at my desk, I'll imagine Ms. Ueland sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, "You're talented, original and you definitely have something to say."


  1. What a beautiful post! I found your comments extremely validating, as 'writing drills' and scheduling would just add more pressure to my life. No, one has to be filled with the essence of life, and how can that be found one second short of a panic attack?! Love your blog and am going to sign up. Best wishes.

  2. Great post! Half the fun of a thrift store is the hunt for treasure, and it sounds as though you've found treasure!

  3. I agree totally with you, Elizabeth! You should look for a copy of Ms. Ueland's book. She speaks a ton about nuturing your true self. Thank you for stopping by, and all of your sweet comments. :)) I'd love for you to sign up! All my best,


  4. Thanks, Journeytoepiphany! I love that feeling I get when I enter the front door of a thrift store. I rub my hands together and whisper, "Now, what will I find today?" Thanks for stopping by!
    All the best,

  5. I've heard a lot about this book over the years. As for me, I go to painting exhibits to "putter". I always find the cross-pollination inspiring.

  6. Thanks, Sam! I'm almost finished with it already. :))

    Painting is a great outlet, Catherine! If I had to pick my favorite "putter" activity it would be working with my roses.

  7. Love this post! I first discovered "If You Want to Write" at my local library about 11 years ago. I signed it out, read it, fell in love with it, and returned it - as all responsible library card-holders do. Then a few years later I went looking for it again, re-read it, and again returned it to the library. Several years went by and I forgot both the name of the book, and the name of the author. I would look for it on occasion, without success, and then forget about it for another year or two. Then a week ago, I was at another library, looking at their selection of gardening books, and as I walked by the "to be put away" cart I spotted "If You Want to Write" on the top of the pile. I recognized it immediately, snatched it up and jubilantly signed it out. This time I will write down the name of the book, and the name of the author, somewhere that I will find it again in the future... or better yet, I will go onto Amazon and buy it for myself. Immediately, if not sooner.

  8. Rebecca, thanks for stopping by! I bet Amazon will have this book for a great deal! I love the book. When I was reading it, I felt as if I knew the author, and she was speaking directly to me! Best of luck with your book hunt. :))