(originally published at first efforts, 12.17.08)
Every few years I reread Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write. There's no precise calendar for when; no alarm bells go off when it's time. I just know. And right now, it's time.
As the name of this blog attests, I'm something of a connoisseur of books about writing. I have my favorites: Lamott, Goldberg, Cameron. But Brenda Ueland has always had a special hold on me. It's the first book on writing and creativity I ever read. I bought it during the summer of 1988 when I was working at Bearskin Lodge, at a now defunct Grand Marais book-and-art-supply store called The Book Station. I read it after work on the dock outside my cabin and before work in the lodge dining room overlooking the lake. My copy still contains the Book Station bookmark I got the day I bought it.
There are a number of reasons I love this book. Brenda Ueland was a Minnesotan and the book is replete with place names like Wayzata and Lake Minnetonka. Brenda Ueland was the daughter of Clara Ueland, the awesome woman suffrage activist. And the book was published in 1938 - love those 1930s! - which means that when Brenda Ueland frets about the bad state of contemporary writing, she complains about stuff like Eleanor Roosevelt's columns (which she derides as superficial).
The primary reason I love this book, though, is because it tells the truth. Because it has chapter titles like "Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It For Their Writing." And because of images like this:
"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 mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten,-happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another" (49-50).
While retooling this web site recently, I decided to add a blog. I'm no stranger to the form; I kept a regular blog from 2006-2010, and it's still available here (for now, at least). But then Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter took over and, well, you know how it goes. Sorry blog, I've moved on.
But now I'm back, for a few reasons. First, Making Photography Matter is coming out in a few months, and I plan to do a few things here to encourage readers to check it out. So stay tuned for that.
In addition, 2015 will be an intensive research year for me. I'll be spending most of it gathering archival material for my new project, The Camera Politic. The blog will be a fun place to park some of those discoveries and reflect upon them.
Finally, I think it might be fun to revisit some of my old blog posts in a search for some greatest hits. I can't promise that much will stand the test of time, but if I unearth some goodies I will post them here to give them new life.
Research news, commentary on visual politics, and a few old blog posts given new life.