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Becoming a Writer

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  5,561 ratings  ·  431 reviews
Refreshingly slim, beautifully written and deliciously elegant, Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer remains evergreen decades after it was first written. Brande believed passionately that although people have varying amounts of talent, anyone can write. It's just a question of finding the "writer's magic"--a degree of which is in us all. She also insists that writing can b ...more
Paperback, 186 pages
Published March 1st 1981 by J.P. Tarcher (first published 1934)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  5,561 ratings  ·  431 reviews

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Holy crap, Dorothea Brande, why the hell is your book almost completely forgotten?

I give "Becoming a Writer" five stars not because it's the most amazing book ever written -- it is, after all, an instructional book, and as such has its limits -- but because it feels almost like it was written yesterday, not 75 years ago, when it actually was published. More importantly, it far surpasses even the most famous and best-loved books on writing that have come since. I couldn't bring myself to finish N
Madeline Friedman
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
Brande's book helped pioneer the contemporary monster genre of books on the writing life. Excellent book for all beginning writers and is just as useful for those who have been writing for a while. I would recommend this well edited edition to all: ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I read this classic, first published in 1934, thinking it might be able to help me write well. Instead, it merely showed me why I am not a writer. Why I cannot be a writer. Why I've stopped writing reviews here at goodreads and why I have plenty of books which I've finished reading and now find difficult to write reviews of, partly because I've lost my immediate impressions about them together with whatever it was which had kept my interest alive while reading them.

How many times have I heard th
Julie Ehlers
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Dorothea Brande was of the opinion that before craft classes or MFA programs could be of any use to would-be writers, they needed to deal with all the neuroses and hangups and confusions that can prevent them from writing in the first place. So Becoming a Writer is about carving out nonnegotiable time to write, sorting out insecurities and false beliefs, harnessing the subconscious for the writing process, reading like a writer, and more. It's practical, accessible, and amusing, and I'm definite ...more
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Four stars for content, and the fifth star for renewal of hope.
Stuart Aken
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
On 13 September, I posted a piece on the difficulties that often beset writers on my blog. In that post I mentioned Dorothea Brande’s excellent book, Becoming a Writer, and, having discovered I had never actually reviewed this seminal work, promised I would do so. I re-read the book, and here’s that review.

As budding writers, we’re all faced with a bewildering panoply of books on the techniques of the craft. As beginners, this huge bulk of work on how to perform the miracle many of us see as wri
Jenny Baker
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny Baker by: Stephen L
Shelves: 2019, writing, nonfiction
I love it when my friends and coworkers suggest books to me, especially when it's a writing advice book. Thanks Steve for thinking of me and loaning me your book. I got a lot out of this and ended up ordering a used copy online. The second half of the book has a lot of great suggestions and exercises. Highly recommended. ...more
Susan Budd
The date is sometime in the late 1980s. The place – the Jamaica station of the Long Island Railroad. I am sitting in a westbound train, book in hand, like Hopper’s girl in Compartment C. I have the luxury of not having to change trains at Jamaica. I am nestled in my seat. Comfy and cozy.

The train sits for five quiet minutes and an odd nostalgia washes over me. Odd because nostalgia is by definition nostalgia for the past, but what I am experiencing is nostalgia for the present. Not déjà vu, but
Kressel Housman
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
Without exception, this is my very favorite book on writing. More than craft, it’s about psychology – the psychology of the artistic mind. Dorothea Brande breaks down the creative process into two parts: the unconscious or imagination, and the conscious or inner editor. When you see the stereotypical “temperamental artist,” she explains, what you are seeing is an artist whose conscious and unconscious are at war with each other. When artists get themselves in balance, both their writing and thei ...more
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a duplicate, slightly revised, of the Amazon review I wrote back in 2001. It's actually the top-rated review there. (Edited to add: I have just discovered that Amazon has removed that review! No idea why.)

Becoming a Writer is unlike any other writing book on the market today. As Brande says in the introduction, even then, back in 1934, there were several books on writing, and most of them are about the basic rules of storytelling, organisational problems, and so on. This book is differen
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended by Bradbury in Zen in the Art of Writing, this has some interesting ideas on respecting and working with your creative unconscious. ...more
Dec 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Long before Julia Cameron gave budding artists a creative kickstart with "The Artist's Way", Dorothea Brande was coaxing aspiring writers out of self-imposed dry spells, first with her creative writing classes and finally with "Becoming A Writer", which is a Cliff Notes version of the practical lessons she presented to one roomful of disillusioned students after another during the 1920s.

"Becoming a Writer" was originally published in 1934. Long before introspection became the norm in our societ
Janisse Ray
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I'm always fascinated by books about the art and craft of writing. This one is especially sweet because it's written by a woman writer in the 1930s (this edition was reprinted with a forward by John Gardner.) Brande is witty, smart, helpful. But what is most amazing about this book is that she talks about something almost nobody discusses, which is the magic of writing, giving lessons on how to get in touch with your unconscious and with your genius. It's a very special book. ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
BECOMING A WRITER is not a writer’s manual in the sense that it will not teach you about plot or grammar or viewpoint. Instead, think of it more as a manual for the artist’s brain. Brande writes about how to confront your fears and doubts, how to get your mind in a place to be productive, and how to balance your inner editor against your inner creative. In other words, this is the book you need to read before you start writing. It’s a great tool for beginners or for those who have been feeling b ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I like especially her chapter 5, Harnessing the Unconscious:

Toward Effortless Writing
Writing calls on unused muscles and involves
solitude and immobility. There is not much to be
said for the recommendation, so often heard, to
serve an apprenticeship to journalism if you intend
to write fiction. But a journalist's career
does teach two lessons which every writer needs
to learn —that it is possible to write for long
periods without fatigue, and that if one pushes on
past the first weariness one finds a r
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Ok, can I say how much I liked this book? It has very good advice for beginners at writing, and for those of us who have been going at it alone for more than 10 years, it's amazing to read, from an experienced woman, all the advice she gives to novices, and realising you've been doing exactly that on your own. Sure, with this book I should've gotten to where I am sooner, but thinking back on my journey, I kinda like exploring it on my own terms.
It made me happy knowing I've been doing things ri
May 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've loved this book for the last 15 years. First published in the 1930s — it's so outdated that she talks about how you need a portable typewriter — this is hands-down the best book I've ever read on how to write and the only one you'll ever need. Writers write, right? ...more
Mario the lone bookwolf
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of the first, most insightful and honest writing advisor free from whitewashing

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Basically, refreshingly different and unfortunately too rare access to the matter is chosen. By not primarily communicating how to write, characterize and credibly portray environments and moods. Instead, it explains what lurks on the way to becoming a budding artist for supposedly well-meaning companions an
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderfully lucid book. I would not hesitate to take writing advice from Dorothea Brande, for the simple reason that her own writing is so elegant and clear. As I was reading, I was reminded of George Orwell’s dictum that good writing should be like a window pane. Brande’s book, written in 1934, is a perfect exemplar. It does not draw attention to itself, but simply communicates the author’s ideas in a clear, pleasing manner.

Brande states from the outset that she will not deal with iss
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, non-fiction
Key takeaways I applied, before the what-the-hell-is-your-point rambling begins:
Practice 1: Write first thing in the morning. Access the unconscious mind.
And 2: Find another random time in the day to write, anything that comes to mind.
Without further ado (drum-roll, curtain opens):

In the last year and a half I've fought through a terrible, confusing struggle to find a way with writing. I tried free-writing, exercises, prose poetry, flow-of-consciousness creation, and writing short sto
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
Delightful, inspiring, and thrillingly encouraging. Dorothea Brande's little book of advice for beginning writers is full of interesting exercises and insights into both the processes that make writing happen and the processes that inhibit it. Some of the exercises are downright meditative. Brande also outlines cautions and encouragements for the beginning writer. One of my favorites is the caution against excessive self-criticism. The book is rather heavily laced with the voguish psychological ...more
Kathleen Flynn
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-advice
I know I say this every time, but this is one of the best books I've read about writing. Very interesting ideas about how to work in greater harmony with your unconscious, and harness its power deliberately. We think of the 1930s as being a long time ago (as they are) but in some respects people then had things better figured out.

Reread in March 2019. Still good! Still trying to take her advice to heart.
This is a surprisingly good book. It was assigned reading for a screenwriting class I took a few years ago. Despite the year of publication, it spoke to me as something I could easily do in the here and now to get my writing done and to take possession of my creativity in spite of any roadblocks set up by my self or others.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing
An accomplished stylist in her own right, Brande hits a rhetorical sweet-spot between sympathetic nurturer and uncompromising drill sergeant. This is a book on overcoming the (many) psychological hurdles to developing a writing life. It's accessible, practical, and inspiring, and now has a permanent place near my writing desk. ...more
C.S. Boag
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a book that aspiring writers must read to achieve the magic that gets those words on paper.
All my life I thought I could do both- live a normal life and write. It's only now that I realise I can't. It is a heady time I am 71.
In the last few years I have had five books published, before that it has been journalism and a few short stories. It has taken all this time to realise that writing is a full-time business.
I follow Brandt's precepts. I have place set aside for writing, there are no
Caroline Barron
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not so much a technical 'how to write book' (after all there are zillions of those out there), but an elegant treatise on why one should become a writer. Or not. Learning to balance and channel the duelling sides of the writer's personality: the creative, instinctual side and the 'discriminating, temperate and just' (p38) side.
Although published in 1934 chapter 11 'Learning to See Again' could have been written for today's iPhone addicts:
"Too many of us allow ourselves to go about wrapped in ou
Cathy Carpenter
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-read
Oh my god, you guys. How many dozens of writing books have I read, and I should have read this one first. It would have saved me a lot of trouble, both in reading those other books and writing my own. She talks about getting your conscious and unconscious minds to work together, how to get your butt in the chair, how to make writing easy, and how to let your genius emerge. Every writer, and really every artist, should read this and take notes. Then implement.
Nayad Monroe
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book on learning the writing process I've ever read, and I have read MANY. I believe every fiction writer should read it. Don't just take my word for it--I picked it up because of a recommendation in an essay by Ray Bradbury! Read it, love it, memorize it! ...more
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not so much a 'how-to' guide; more a 'pep talk' for those of us who want to be more creative but spend so much time being critical of our own ideas that we never get anything down on paper. Good stuff.
Craig Barner
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Dorothea Brande's "Becoming a Writer" felt like literary plutonium. The ideas were powerful, yet given concisely and with wit, thereby doubling their impact. Budding writers who doubt the likelihood of their success should read the work because it is designed for them. It aims to cure misgivings about beginning a literary career and--more significantly--provide the psychic fuel for the journey of a lifetime. The work is powerful because it is so liberating.

The work is not a technical manual per
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Creative Reviews: Becoming a Writer 1 12 Jun 24, 2012 07:26AM  

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Dorothea Brande (1893 – 1948) was a well-respected writer and editor in New York.

Dorothea Collins died in New Hampshire.

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