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Book Review: Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande

Updated on September 17, 2007

What does the writer say?

First published in 1934, it is interesting to read Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer because it is still applicable to writers today. Brande begins by explaining she doesn't want to write the same kind of "how to write book" as so many other writers are writing. Instead of giving tips on how to create a writing habit or introducing numerous exercises to help kick start the writing process, she describes the writer in a more personal, spiritual way.

There are two sides of a writer--a writer has dual personalities--says Brande. She splits these personalities into the conscious and the unconscious. A writer is two persons in one body. Sometimes what a writer does to help the conscious flourish harms the unconscious, and vice versa. The real struggle is to compliment both personalities of the writer so they can work together. The conscious personality shields the unconscious personality from the outside world. If the writer relies too much on the conscious personality and doesn't allow the unconscious personality the freedom to create or observe, the writing will be too shallow.

Brande offers two exercises to make the writing commitment:

  • Early Morning Writing for fluency

  • Writing by Agreement with Yourself for control

Brande also points out the need to learn to read as a writer. Most writers are readers, but reading can be detrimental to writing. First, it is wasteful to read a lot but not analyze and understand the methods authors use to write their pieces. Second, it is almost instinctive to imitate what you are reading in your writing. In imitation, a writer isn't true to her style of writing.

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Rating: 8/10

My commitment becomes stronger the more I understand what it means to be a writer. It is difficult to continue writing when I feel discouraged. According to Brande, it is because the writer’s ego is so big. A writer’s ego is easily bruised. This is sometimes why it is so difficult to continue writing. If I don’t keep my commitment to writing, I feel disappointed and discouraged. It makes sense to operate as two different personalities--Brande offers writers a way to get past so-called "writer's block."

If the unconscious is allowed to write openly and freely, the conscious is able to be protective against the discouragements. My goal is to keep my commitment to writing.

How did this book inspire you? How do you cope with your own difficulties in writing?


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