RogerBW's Blog

Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande 18 October 2019

1934 non-fiction, a short look at the writing mindset and how to set oneself to work.

This is unlike most writing books, in that it has nothing to say about grammar; or about the shape of a story; or even about how to sell your work. Rather, it's about the psychology of taking writing seriously.

That basis of discontent was that the difficulties of the average student or amateur writer begin long before he has come to the place where he can benefit by technical instruction in story writing. He himself is in no position to suspect that truth. If he were able to discover for himself the reasons for his aridity the chances are that he would never be found enrolled in any class at all.

But he only vaguely knows that successful writers have overcome the difficulties which seem almost insuperable to him; he believes that accepted authors have some magic, or at the very lowest, some trade secret, which, if he is alert and attentive, he may surprise. He suspects, further, that the teacher who offers his services knows that magic, and may drop a word about it which will prove an Open Sesame to him. In the hope of hearing it, or surprising it, he will sit doggedly through a series of instructions in story types and plot forming and technical problems which have no relation to his own dilemma. He will buy or borrow every book with "fiction" in the title; he will read any symposium by authors in which they tell their methods of work.

In almost every case he will be disappointed.

Several of the elements here are familiar from later writing about writing; specifically, the business of separating the composing-mind from the editing-mind (Brande, under the influence of Freud, identifies these with the unconscious and the conscious), and tricks to get oneself to do the hard work of simply sitting down to write and not be distracted. Brande goes on to develop theory of a third mode of thinking, which she calls "genius", and uses principles more familiar to me from meditation exercises in order to trick it into becoming active.

Many of the examples, while clearly fresh and contemporary in 1934, are now largely forgotten. It can be interesting to see which ones aren't.

Whether it will cause me to get off my arse and do something is an open question. But it's definitely more interesting than most books about writing.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 06:32pm on 18 October 2019

    Ah writing.

    If you enjoy writing, and find it fun that will take you far.

    If you find it hard work, then not so much.

    But, distraction is an issue.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1