Once again, let’s take a look at one of the multitudes of writing books I have read through the years. I have plenty, so these Friday peeks at my book shelves should last a while.
Published in 1934, Dorthea Brande’s Becoming a Writer is a short but encouraging book chockfull of great advice. She was a creative writing teacher in the 1920’s so this book is like time traveling 100 years back to her classroom.
Brande believes that writing is something that can be taught, and that one enters into an apprenticeship to learn the craft, just like a silversmith or carpenter. She is answering to the authors of her time that insisted that genius could not be taught. Whatever, says Brande. She’s not looking for genius. She is looking for stories.
Her exercises are familiar (three pages, anyone?) and she breaks down daily writing, writing like you are daydreaming, and writing on a schedule in ways that are very doable. She gives advice on managing energy, and that house cleaning can help you clean up your ideas. But mostly, she deals not with the nuts and bolts of writing, but with the self doubt and overthinking that can come with writing. She is not a fan of workshops, where writers tear each other’s work to bits, believing that true originality comes from within. Brande also tells you how to find that originality.
And since this book was written in 1934, she also advises that writers learn to typewrite and if they can, have two typewriters, one large one and one quiet, portable version. There is also some advice at the end regarding hot beverages. But for 170 pages, there is wisdom on every page.