I’m hoping the headline got your attention. It’s advice from a not-so-famous author, Brenda Ueland, who (way back in 1938) wrote If You Want to Write which shared her philosophies on writing, work (of any kind) and life.
And one of her messages was that if you want to write, paint, compose music, or do anything creative, you need to make that important work a priority.
I’ve been reminded by Ueland’s advice because I’ve been reading Austin Kleon’s brand-new book, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. As you’ll see in a minute, Kleon agrees that you can’t do great work by stealing 15 minutes in between mopping and sweeping (or between texting and emailing).
But first let me share Ueland’s perspective, which is directed to women who “are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for othersand never anything for themselves.”
The problem, wrote Ueland, is that “if you are always doing something for others, like a servant or a nurse, and never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good. For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yourself. And how to be something yourself? Only by working hard and with gumption at something you love and care for and think is important.”
Ueland suggests that “if you want your children to be musicians, then work at music yourself, seriously and with all your intelligence. If you want them to be scholars, study hard yourself.”
And she recommends that women “shut your door against the children for an hour a day and say, ‘Mother is working on her five-act tragedy in blank verse.’” If you do so, you might be surprised how your children will not only respect you, they will “probably all become playwrights.”
Even if you aren’t a woman or don’t have children (or don’t want them to become playwrights), Ueland’s advice is sound. Kleon gets even more specific about how you’ve got to make important work a priority and set yourself up for success. For example, he recommends these 5 steps:
The best way to wrap this up? An inspirational quote from each:
So keep going!