Book Review: Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

This book was first published in 1932.  Despite its age, it offers some important insights into the art of writing.  Dorothea doesn’t speak much about the actual craft of writing, but rather advises beginners on how to become disciplined, hard-working, inspired writers.  In most cases, it is only through consistent effort that a writer can hope to find the elusive genius: the part of her that surfaces when her conscious, logical side and unconscious, artistic side have learned to work together harmoniously.  Every potential writer has a bit of genius in them, but most won’t ever put in the work necessary to unearth it.

Here is a list of action items I created for myself based on the lovely advice given in this book:

1.  Do not talk about my writing unless absolutely necessary.  A story that has been shared won’t scream quite as loudly to be written.

2. Begin to compile a list of places, situations, people, activities, music, etc. that inspire me to write, and try to incorporate more of them into my daily life.

3. Learn to turn off my inner editor while I am writing.

4.  Begin free-writing for 30 minutes every morning, first thing when I wake up.

5.  After a month or two of free-writes, analyze my writing.  What kind of writing do I do most?  What kind of writing is my best writing?  What kind of writing do I need to practice?

6. Once the free-write becomes a normal part of my routine, decide on a workable writing schedule for writing tasks other than my daily free-write.

7.  Find authors who are strong in areas in which I am weak.  Study them and imitate them.

8. Begin keeping a log of new vocabulary I would like to try in my writing.

9.  Take time to sit or walk with a quiet mind and just notice things.

10.  While writing a story, only read books that are not related to what I am writing about in substance or style.

And, most importantly:

11.  Stop waiting for “final wisdom” to arrive and decide to be comfortable with the knowledge and beliefs I hold at this moment.

The book is a quick read, and may not be the most comprehensive writing manual ever written, but I give it 5/5 stars based on the very compelling, ageless advice it contains (with the exception of the use of typewriters 😉 ).

I’ll end this post with my favorite quote from the book:

“If you are unwilling to write from the honest, though perhaps far from final, point of view that represents your present state, you may come to your deathbed with your contribution to the world still unmade, and just as far from final conviction about the universe as you were at the age of twenty.”

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