Becoming a Writer
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244 of 249 people found the following review helpful
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. In fact, any writer who has dabbled a little bit in the so-called "spiritual arts" would be capable of putting together a how-to treatise on writing, painting, dancing, or any other form of creativity, a how-to-do book on writing just by filling it with Buddhist sound-bites.
The thing about Brande is that she said it first, and said it best. This book is pioneer work; in 1934 George Harrison had not yet gone to India to set off the boom in meditation, and we were not yet informed on the validity of "right-brained" thinking.
She then goes on to talk about the interplay between the unconscious and the conscious mind, for the latter does have a role to play in he process or writing.
The unconscious, says Brande, is shy, elusive, and unwieldy, but it is possible to learn to tap it at will, and even to direct it. The conscious mind, on the other hand, is meddlesome, opinionated, and arrogant, but it can be made subservient to the inborn talent through training. What wonderful, inspiring words! What courage they installed in me, when I first read them!
The rest of the book tells us how, exactly, to tap the wealth of the unconscious mind. She provides exercises and practical examples of what can be done to get the those buried stories richly flowing. She plants that seed of knowledge in your soul which will tell you "This is it", and will catapult you - as if by magic! - out of the slough of despond and into the actual work of a writer.
I read this book in 1981, at a time when I never dared dream of writing a complete novel. Immediately after reading it I began the exercises. They helped. Then I began to write my first novel. What more can I say, except that Brande's advice works. I now have two published novels and a third one under contract, what better recommendation can I give?
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119 of 123 people found the following review helpful
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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112 of 121 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2000
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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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2001
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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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
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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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2001
This book tries to show you how to get started writing, and avoids telling you what to write. Too many "how to" books become vehicles for conveying the authors' prejudices and preferences (I remember becoming annoyed at John Gardner's overbearing allegiance to the worn Jamesian cliches like "showing not telling", for example). I don't think Dorothea Brande cares much if you are a post-modern experimentalist or a western writer, or a budding newspaper columnist; her hope is that you become a writer, at least. Your genre, style, and subject matter are nobody's business but your readers'. If you are looking for a book that will tell you whether your characters are "too shallow" or whether your plotting technique needs improvement, this is not the book (thank goodness!). If you have ever started something great and never finished, or if you want to start but can't seem to drag yourself to do it, this could be a helpful read. Check it out!
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 1999
I can not tell you how important it is for every new (and experienced) writer to obtain - and read - this book. Written in an extremely readable style and full of practical, meaningful exercises, this book is different from every other writing book out there. Buy it first and read it often.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Becoming a Writer is a reprint from a book originally published in 1934. However, I have found the advice to be timeless and in keeping with that given by modern writers such as Stephen King and Natalie Goldberg. Dorothea Brande writes in clear, concise terms what is needed to become a writer, and like the others, she advises that hard work is what will in the end, be a necessary ingredient. Especially if we are to be conscious competents.
I found the chapters on reading as a writer most helpful as I do so much reading and therefore wish to learn as much as I can while doing so. And I was most amazed at the insight that Ms. Brande had with respect to how the mind works. She seems to be well ahead of her times, and I'm not so sure that many would find fault with her take on how genius or "empty mind" is to be encouraged and enhanced.
In short, this book is well worth the read and should be on any aspiring writer's shelf. I give it a three out of five rating (and then only because there are more current volumes that provide this information). I am pleased to have spent the time reading this book.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 1999
If you are thinking about writing, or do write but telling the world that you are a <<writer>> does not yet come naturally, stop reading this and buy this book. Use one-click service! Have them ship it overnight! Just read this book, and read it now!
I have been writing for a long time - grants, client reports, and articles at first. More recently I've included website essays and a monthly email newsletter.
What spurred me to buy this book is that I am now writing my first book. I felt that I needed some sort of scheduling discipline, and I wanted to learn about living a writer's life. I previously thought the latter was based on lots of drinking binges, alternating between alcohol and caffeine. And a good dose of angst while trying desparately to appeal to one1s muse to visit occasionally right before a big deadline. When I just started writing, it wasn1t like that at all. I have something to say about my topic (helping professional women transform stagnant jobs into rewarding and meaningful careers.) I just started writing about the women I know, what gets in their way, and how they can resolve their conflicts to do what they are meant to do.
So much for the angst and drinking binges. But I wanted to read about ordinary people and how they write. This book was the answer to that search.
Ms. Brande has a wonderfully simple yet profound way of making her point. She wrote this in the 30s, yet has a fresh take! I found it refreshing that she writes about the issue of writers1 tools -- typewriters as opposed to quill pens -- without any mention of the internet or the Y2K bug. Before right brain - left brain dualism was a common idea, she was writing about how to get your creative side to follow the direction of your logical side.
This book is a gem. It is perfect for writers at a particular point in their careers, and I imagine it is very useful if you are not right there at the moment.
Let1s just say that not only did she inspire me to get to work on my book, but to write this reader1s review. So get this book, and get inspired about your writing!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2001
Ms. Brande was not marketing herself or her work when she wrote this book. She had something to convey, something to teach. She does so in a practical, straightforward way. After reading 'Becoming a Writer' you will not be the same: Approached with an open mind and willingess to learn, Ms. Brande's advice is quite capable to transform the way in which you think, write and live. As all the reviewers before me have pointed out, this is a must for aspiring writers. In addition, I do believe any person whose profession involve writing, will find great rewards in this book.
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