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Becoming a Writer

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  5,290 ratings  ·  397 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 3.98  · 
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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
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
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
Jeanette (Again)
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.
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
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 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
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
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: challenge-2016
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Brian Kelley
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pawlp-library
First published in 1934, Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer has been widely regarded as a classic. It must have been thrilling for young writers in the threadbare 30s to be able to access Brande in this way as I imagine she was among the first to offer guidance which neither reeked of pragmatism nor developed within the noble goals of the WPA.

In the 1930s many young writers were advised to gain some experience as a journalist if they wanted to be a writer in the long run--after all, you can mak
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
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, anyone who needs motivation for a creative project
Recommended to Gwen by: Jeanette
Shelves: non-fiction
I was recommended this book, and I'm glad that I checked it out, as it was much more helpful and easier on the brain than Aspects of the Novel, a book by E.M. Forster which I read at the same time as this one. I have already started to take the advice given within the first chapters of this book on writing something every morning, and I am eager to see just how I will progress by following Brande's advice.

This is not really a book about developing a plot or characters, nor is it a primer on the
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
If I could, I'd give 10 stars. I cannot recommend this book too highly.

Instead of discussing how-to-write Plot, Character, Setting, or POV, Brande says that a fledgling writer first needs to understand the psychology of an atypical writer. She then talks about what it's like to actually be a writer: how you act, think, how the mind works, and even how to train your writing brain (i.e., the duality of Composing and Editing) to actually work FOR you!


This is great stuff! Where's this been all m
Steven Belanger
Nov 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Like John Gardiner's book, The Art of Fiction, this one is very helpful because of its honest directness and simplicity. An easy read, it sounds like she's in the room, talking only to you. An important work because it dispels advice on technique and instead gives bare-bones advice about who writers are and what they must essentially do. In essence, she advises how to get the butt in the chair, and she tells you what to do in order to keep it there and to be productive. A large part self-help, i ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's refreshing to read something so old, and let's be honest, a little outdated (I didn't expect it to contain anything useful) have a couple of useful tips that I do think I kind of need now as a writer. I think what struck me the most is that when you dread the act of writing, maybe I shouldn't be a writer which motivated me to write this review too. I fear not being able to write.

The other thing that struck me is one of the advice she gave: do something monotonous or silent. My days are usua
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dorothea Brande's book is not about writing, it is about becoming a writer. Within it she addresses the meta issues, if you will, on how to view artistic temperaments, how to induce inspiration, and how to tap into the maddeningly elusive originality that every writer has.

At a conceptual level, Brande argues persuasively that the writer first has to see herself as two distinct personalities and make sure that they work together: the artistic, unconscious self as the one who spins the stories an
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-craft
If you are looking for advice and tricks on the craft of writing such as how to outline or the development of plot and character, you should read another book. But if you have wondered why you start and stop (or perhaps can't start) your writing or can't seem to get into the groove or even find your brain buzzing with ideas, but like fast moving humming birds, they cannot be captured, this is the book for you.

From start to finish, Becoming a Writer is the best book on writing I have read. Altho
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Creative Reviews: Becoming a Writer 1 10 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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