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Becoming a Writer Paperback – March 1, 1981

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Editorial Reviews Review

Even in 1934, Dorothea Brande knew that most writers didn't need another book on "technique" -- and this, before so many more would be published. No, she realized, as John Gardner notes in his foreword, "the root problems of the writer are personality problems," and thus her wise book is designed to simply help you get over yourself and start writing, with techniques ranging from a simple declaration to write every day at a fixed time -- no matter what -- to exercises that come close to inventing the TM and self-actualization movements that would follow a few decades later.

About the Author

ROBERT W. HARRIS has been a freelance writer and designer since 1990. He has written twelve books, including DOS, WordPerfect & Lotus Office Companion and When Good People Write Bad Sentences. His books have been main selections in the Small Computer Book Club and the Book-of-the-Month Club.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher (March 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874771641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874771640
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

248 of 253 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Maas ( on December 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Becoming a Writer is unlike any other writing book on the market today. As Brande says in the introduction, even then, back in 1934, there were several books on writing, and most of them are about the basic riles of storytelling, organisational problems, and so on. This book is different. You will find nothing about plot, dialogue, structure, beginnings, endings here. Nothing about the actual nuts and bolts of writing.
Brande is trying to reach the writer who is not yet sure he/she is a writer. The shy, insecure artist who believes that somehow there is a magic to writing, a magic that other, successful writers have and which has somehow eluded him. And who desperately longs to find a key to that magic.
This book provides that key.
Brande goes on to talk about the artistic temperament, and th eneed to cultivate spontaneity, and innocence of eye, as well as the ability to respond freshly and quickly to new scenes, and to old scenes as though they were new, and to see "traits and characteristics as though each were new-minted from the hand of God".
Stories, Brande says, are formed in the unconscious mind, which must flow freely and richly, bringing at demand all the" treasures of memory, all the emotions, scenes, incidents, intimations of character and relationship" which is stored away beyond our awareness.
This book is about tapping that rich store in the unconscious mind.
These days there are all kinds of workshops and books about creativity, tapping the unconscious, using meditation to reach the inner artist, and so on.
Read more ›
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119 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Susie Rigsby on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have purchased several books on writing fiction and non-fiction. And I would have to say, most of the books that I have purchased I did find useful in assisting me with what I wanted to know. But after reading Dorothea Brande's "Becoming a Writer", I felt the warmest type of inspiration. Brande came from the 30s era when she didn't have to contend with the computer, editors that only read two or three pages of a book before they throw it in the trash pile, or the pressures of a fast moving market. Yet, she knew full well what every writer experiences and needs to be told. And she told it, quite well, in this book. I loved it. I keep it next to my computer for reference from time to time. I recommend this wonderful book to anyone that has intentions of writing, no matter what area they are trying to enter. It is just great.
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113 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Sharon-the-mermaid on January 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
I bought this book by "accident" when I was in New York in 1981. I cried when I read it, for I KNEW I was going to be a writer, a thing to grand for me to ever even imagine. It took a few years but last year I had my first novel published in England (of marriageable age): several translations, and huge advances. This is the book that started me off. I owe everything to it. Every aspiring author should read it.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Julie Jordan Scott on December 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
I adore this book - it was like going to my favorite elderly neighbor's house for a cup of tea and finding out all her best secrets about her area of giftedness.

The language Miss Brande uses is reflective of her time - she uses phrases I would never think to use... and I delighted in each turn of the letter, each loving bit of guidance and suggestion.

"Becoming a Writer" reminded me of "So You Want to Write" by Brenda Ueland, though this book feels more structured to me and less conversational. Her ideas are echoed in the modern works of writers such as Julia Cameron.

She offers many exercises and manners of stretching yourself as a writer, offered to make your uniqueness more pronounced and aid in your quest to do exactly what the title says, become a writer.

Her concluding chapter: "In conclusion: Some Prosaic Pointers" is flawless and timeless, even as it speaks of the necessity for two typewriters (substitute computers).

I am so glad I finally read this book, one I had heard referred to for such a long time. It is truly a classic to be loved, to be returned to, and to be treasured for all times.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
One of Dorothea Brande's first practical suggestions is getting into the habit of writing in the morning, every morning. Books like 'The Artist's Way' adopt this technique as a central method almost as if they were proposing a novel idea. 'Becoming a Writer' is full of lots of suggestions which have been taken up and elaborated by more contemporary 'how to write' methods. Her advice is gentle and general. You won't find much about literary technique or stylistic concerns but you will find techniques for opening yourself to the process of writing and finding the courage to discover your own style. This book is insightful and inspirational. Personally, I find myself rebelling against more formal writing methods that require me to do x number of things during week y and report on it in the journal. This type of writing advice is too pedantic for my taste. 'Becoming a Writer' offers general advice and allows a degree of freedom that I find liberating. As nurturing as Brande's approach is, she can be brutally honest about deciding whether or not your desire to write is greater than your resistance to writing. In a two paragraph section called 'Succeed, or Stop Writing', she inspired in me more discipline than a dozen other writing books have ever managed to do.
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