Writer’s aid: ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande

7 Jun

I purchased this book slightly reticently, having read thoroughly disappointing books in the same genre.  This, however, is something of a gem.  Originally written in 1934, Brande blasts so many of the typical writing tips out of the water, especially that writers possess some sort of secret and genius that we can only dream of attaining.


The book is actually incredibly uplifting in addition to being informative.  The idea Brande consistently emphasises is that there are certain habits one needs to cultivate as a writer before any of the technical writing issues should be addressed.  She presents some really interesting and unusual ideas of how writers can combat their doubts and anxieties about writing, including adopting a sort of dual personality.  Not in the insane sense, of course.  It is more to nurture the unconscious which is when your imagination runs freely and to moderate it with the more disciplined side of yourself.  Practical advice she gives includes waking up half an hour earlier and making yourself write before reading anything or talking to anyone as this will reveal where your talent, i.e. which genre, needs to be developed.  If you wish to write short stories yet you find that your writing in these morning sessions tends to focus on drawn-out characterisation rather than more concise scenarios, you may find that you are demonstrating more traits akin to that of a novelist, rather than the short story writer.

I really enjoyed reading Brande’s book – it is elegantly written and her wit shines through.  It is infused with good advice that teaches you how to prepare yourself for the psychological challenges a writer faces, rather than the technical ones.  For me, self-doubt and apathy are two of my biggest challenges and I found that this book inspired me to leave my demons by the wayside and simply get on with writing.

Highly recommended.

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