Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Based on the online reviews, people love Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. I read this short book because I recently reread Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing and he recommended this book. I didn’t have a deep response to this text, although, I like the idea of using different forms of meditation to get to a place of quiet mind and a place of allowing the subconscious (unconscious) to play a strong role in the creation of art. And, perhaps because I’ve been subscribing to that concept for a very long time, that could be the reason that this book didn’t feel like such a big deal. It is about “Becoming” a writer, so those tips could be very helpful to those just starting out.

I find three things interesting about this text, originally published in 1934 based on Brande’s workshop teaching of writers in the 1920s. First, it introduces the ideas and concepts of the morning pages. I loved and found morning pages incredibly helpful. They were introduced to me via Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. I have long attributed my becoming a writer to the work I did with Cameron’s 12-week program. So, that’s what I found so interesting about Becoming a Writer, that it introduced a few ideas that Cameron embraced in her book. (By the way, I prefer the 1992 edition of The Artist’s Way to the updated version.) There is this connection or thread of ideas and how we learn and teach writing. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read books that span writing teaching in the 20th century and the ideas all seem to have connections and threads running between them.

The second connection is simply the title. I recently read Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. This idea of how we become who we become is interesting to me. What foundation do we have? What work have we put forth? What education? What books and movies and music are we exposed to? How do we achieve our goals? What do we walk away from? I like the exploration of becoming.

And, finally, I recently offered a commentary that sprung out of seeing the play Incognito. I do think that creating a foundation of work is important for our journey. So, it isn’t that I only want new ideas in my line of experience, but that I want a combination of new and old, of tested and untested. I want to become whatever it is I’m becoming through the experiences that I have. It isn’t my desire to limit the experiences of others, but to open up the possibilities of what might come next.

So, this book isn’t about recommending or not recommending. Does it resonate with you? Have the experience. Does it not, then move on to the next thing that does resonate. We become writers by writing. We become people by experiencing ourselves in the world. Become.

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