Who are these women and
what links them together?
Well, first came…
Lately, I’ve been meeting oodles of cool women on Facebook. Creative women. Gutsy women. Women who are out there living their dreams.
Marta Szabo is one of them.
Co-Director of the Authentic Writing Workshops, Marta has been a writer and an editor all her life. Reading the short bio on her website, I’m amazed at (and a tad envious of) how exciting her life has been to date. From working as an editor in mass-market paperbacks to pursuing yoga and meditation to living in an ashram for over ten years AND spending a year and a half in India… Marta’s exploits make the heroine of Eat, Pray, Love seem lazy and dull. (And that’s only part of it… see for yourself.)
Through her workshops, Marta is making sure more and more people start living their dreams by helping them “return to their most essential, personal material – the content of their actual lives – and to render those stories not in pious ephemeral terms, but in tough, concrete ones.” In other words, Marta helps people unleash the writer within!
It was Marta who shed a light on…
It all started with a quote I stumbled upon while reading a book:
“The way to find your true self
is by recklessness and freedom.”
— Brenda Ueland
I had no clue who Brenda Ueland was, but finding myself in need of a quick quote fix, I skipped the research part and went straight to citing her on my Facebook wall.
Then came Marta’s comment: this is one of the best books ever about writing — written in the 1920s or 30s. “If You Want to Write.”
I immediately googled Brenda and found the following info on — yes — Wikipedia:
Ueland published two books during her life. The first was If You Want to Write: a Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, first published in 1938. In this book, she shares her philosophies on writing and life in general. She stresses the idea that “Everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say.” Drawing heavily on the work and influence of William Blake, she suggests that writers should “Try to discover your true, honest, un-theoretical self.” She sums up her book with 12 points to keep in mind while writing. Carl Sandburg called If You Want to Write “the best book ever written on how to write.”
Her second book was an autobiography entitled Me: A Memoir, published in 1939. In it she writes about her childhood, time in college, her life in Greenwich Village, and love affairs, among other topics. She tells of her affair with Raoul Hendricson, an anarchist who eventually left her for Isadora Duncan. This book was reprinted in 1994. Libby Larsen composed a wonderful song cycle using texts from this memoir.
And finally, Brenda reunited me with…
(couldn’t find a picture of Dorothea — her book cover will have to do)
As soon as I saw that Brenda’s book was published in the 30s, I remembered another book that was also published in the 30s: “Becoming a Writer,” by Dorothea Brande.
I bought that book in 1993 (I always jot down the purchase date inside the cover), but to be honest with you, I don’t remember reading it. And after flipping through the 186 pages, I admit I find it boring. Still, here’s the first exercise, page 58:
You are near a door. When you come to the end of this chapter put the book aside, get up, and go through that door. From the moment you stand on the threshold turn yourself into your own object of attention. What do you look like, standing there? How do you walk? What, if you knew nothing about yourself, could be gathered of you, your character, your background, your purpose just there at just that minute? If there are people in the room whom you must greet, how do you greet them? How do your attitudes to them vary? Do you give any overt sign that you are fonder of one, or more aware of one, than of the rest?
There is no deep, dark, esoteric purpose behind this exercise. It is a primer lesson in considering oneself objectively, and should be dismissed from your mind when you have learned what you can from it. Another time try sitting at ease and — using no gestures at all — tell yourself step by step how you comb your hair. (You will find it harder than you think.) Again, follow yourself at any small routine task. A little later take an episode of the day before; see yourself going up to it and coming away from it; and the episode itself as it might have looked to a stranger. At still another time think how you might have looked if you could follow yourself all day long from a little height. Use the fiction maker’s eye on yourself to see how you would have appeared when you went in and out of houses, up streets and into stores, and back home at the end of the day.
END OF CHAPTER
There you have it — three fabulous women linked together by one burning passion: writing.
Dorothea passed away in 1948; Brenda, in 1985.
Thank your lucky stars Marta is ALIVE.
P.S.: I’ll be reading “If You Want to Write” as soon as it arrives. Stay tuned for my book review.