In 2008 I began to wake up from the deep sleep of ‘supposed to’. I was married, living in thevariaslaap03_ok suburbs with three children, a loyal husband, part-time nanny and weekly personal training sessions.  It was what I wanted (it’s what most people want, right?) and it was wonderful in many ways, but something was missing.


I only knew who I was supposed to be. I was based on external scaffolding.  I was my children’s mom, my husband’s wife, a woman with a personal trainer and a woman who needs a nanny even though she’s a stay-at-home-mom. I was fit from training and maintained perfectly pedicured toes. Outwardly, I was healthy and polished.  Inwardly, I was a dark cave unexplored. I had no idea where the rocks and stalactites were, nor did I know the pure deep stream that existed in the unlit catacombs.

I was listless and low energy.  I felt depressed and wondered if there was something wrong with me. How could I be down when I had so much?

Enter Brenda Ueland.

While picking out a gift for a writing friend, I noticed a book called, If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and SpiritThe author’s name, Brenda Ueland, caught Brenda ueland fullmy eye. I read the back cover. I picked up a copy for my friend and myself.

Between the covers of her book I found a woman who lived dreamily and daringly from 1892-1985.  She both conserved and exuded energy. She was a writer, wife, mother and boundary pusher.  She championed the diverse students in her YWCA writing classes. The poet, Allen Ginsberg, called her a ‘Courage Teacher’.

As I read, my eyes opened gently. In her, I found it was OK to crave solitude. I learned I wasn’t the only one who felt trapped in a relationship.  I learned that creativity isn’t all based on skill and massive productivity. I found a non-judgmental teacher and kindred spirit in Brenda Ueland.

Solitude Lets Imagination Slip In

…It is 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; …With all my heart I tell you and reassure you: at such times you are being slowly filled and re-charged with warm imagination, with wonderful, living thoughts. ~ Brenda Ueland

My personal trainer suggested running.  Running gave me time to myself. Ideas and daydreams came to me as I ran, walked,woman on rr tracks shopped and meditated, alone.  Glimpses of my internal world fueled me.  My step got lighter and my depression lifted. I felt my soul fill-in. Solitude became a drug I couldn’t live without.

Everyone is Creative

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

Brenda Ueland believed if you told your story without over-thinking or trying to be impressive, you were interesting.  Writing is just talking on paper. She said everyone should write about themselves. Writing or creating is a generosity to be offered freely but not forced upon anyone.

She encouraged making mistakes — she tells us to congratulate ourselves for making daring, honorable, ridiculous mistakes.

Work freely and rollickingly as though you were talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters. ~ Brenda Ueland

Brenda made me believe I could write.  She showed me that writing doesn’t have to be something I make up.  It can be something I write down that comes from within. Childhood stories, lessons learned, grown-up healing process.  It all counts as writing and a form of creativity.  I never thought I was creative until I read If You Want to Write.

Relationship Mismatches

We did not admire the same things.  I loved abstractions: truth, greatness, heroism.  He liked plain facts and cleverness. ~ Brenda Ueland speaking about her then husband

Many of Brenda’s words and thoughts lined up so closely with my real life it was eerie. I began to recognize a deep and real disconnect between my husband and me. Did we really know each other? Like each other? Would we expand and grow more as humans without each other? I thought so.

All that time I was inwardly wanting not to be married anymore; to be free, alone.  ~ Brenda Ueland

Real Love Can Be Found in Listening

Unless you listen, people are weazened in your presence; they become about a third of themselves.  Unless you listen, you don’t know anybody.  Oh, you will know facts and what is in the newspapers and all of history, perhaps, but you will not know one single person.  You know, I have come to think listening is love, that’s what it really is. ~ Brenda Ueland

I began to listen more.  I found listeners who offered conversation in an alternating-current style — we took turns talking and deeply hearing each other. I experienced a nirvana of self-realization.  My spirit became clearer and clearer. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning. I no longer felt alone in my need for solitude. More and more ideas flowed through my mind and onto my notebook pages as I made time for idleness and writing. My marriage started to teeter but I felt warmth from the two-way love listeners I discovered as I ventured away from my previously defining scaffolding.

The saying goes, When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Brenda Ueland appeared when I was ready. She opened my eyes to an internal world of love, listening and creativity and an external world of authenticity and courage.

Do you have a personal transformative hero? How did they help you see you? When was the last time you reveled in idleness and imagination? 

Suggested further exploring:

Video: THE SPACE WE NEED from Nic Askew and Brenda Knowles of space2live

Me – Brenda Ueland autobiography

If You Want to Write:A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit – Brenda Ueland

Strength to Your Sword Arm – Brenda Ueland

Brenda, My Darling: The Love Letters of Fridtjof Nansen to Brenda Ueland – Eric Utne

My Introverted Love Creed: If We Can’t be Magnificent and Independent Together I’m OK Alone – space2live

The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo? –