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the key to the writer's magic.
on December 21, 2001
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?