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Becoming a Writer

Brande, Dorothea
Publisher:  Harcourt, New York, USA
Year Published:  1961   First Published:  1934
Pages:  186pp   ISBN:  0-87477-164-1
Library of Congress Number:  PN3355.B7 1981   Dewey:  808.3

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Becoming a Writer is a book about the writer's magic and how to overcome the major setbacks many writers experience. It is not a technical guide to constructing a story, but a look at the psychological factors that hold back writers. Long before the discovery of the roles of the left and right brain, Brande advocated the separation of the logical and emotional sides of the psyche in the writing process. She claims that writers must deal with their daily struggles and organize their lives with a more mature side of themselves, while a youthful and innocent side is required in telling a story. The two sides must work together.

In 17 chapters, Brande goes over the many problems that lead writers to seek out every book, class, and seminar on writing. These instructive tools focus on the technical aspects of the writing process and can be discouraging to young writers who are seeking guidance in the emotional problems of writer's block, self doubt, and lack of confidence. Brande's book is different from these courses because she claims that there are lessons that can guide to a "writer's temperament" and that genius can be taught. These lessons are taught through various exercises throughout the volume.

Some of Brande's exercises include easing into a steady schedule, slowly prolonging the duration of writing daily, and reading literature with a writer's eye. Although she dislikes most books on writing, she does include a bibliography of books that will help the writer further overcome the emotional difficulties. Only then, she claims, can the novice writer benefit from technical instructions for the development of setting, plot, and characters. The first step is to discover the techniques of living as a writer.

[Abstract by Mia Manns]

Table of Contents

Foreword by John Gardner

In Introduction

1. The Four Difficulties
The Difficulty of Writing at All; The "One-Book Author"; The Occasional Writer; The Uneven Writer; The Difficulties Not in Technical Equipment.

2. What Writers Are Like
Cultivating a Writer's Temperament; False and Real Artists; The Two Sides of a Writer; " Dissociation" Not Always Psychopathic; Everyday Examples of Dual Personality; The Slough Despond.

3. The Advantages of Duplicity
The Process of Story Formation; The "Born Writer"; Unconscious and Conscious; The Two Persons of the Writer; The Transparent Barriers; Keep Your Own Counsel; Your "Best Friend and Severest Critic"; The Right Recreation; Friends and Books; The Arrogant Intellect; The Two Selves Not at War; The First Exercise.

4. Interlude: On Taking Advice
Save Your Energy; Imagination Versus Will in Changing Habits; Displacing Old Habits; A Demonstration; The Right Frame of Mind.

5. Harnessing The Unconscious
Wordless Daydreams; Toward Effortless Writing; Double Your "Output".

6. Writing On Schedule
Engaging to Write; A debt of Honor; Extending the Exercise; Succeed, or Stop Writing.

7. The First Survey
Reading Your Work Critically; The Pitfalls of Imitation; Discovering Your Strength; A Footnote for Teachers.

8. The Critic At Work On Himself
A critical Dialogue; Be Specific in Suggestions; Correction After Criticism; The Condition of Excellence; Dictating Daily Regime.

9. Readings As A Writer
Read Twice; Summary Judgment and Detailed Analysis; The Second Reading; Points of Importance.

10. On Imitation
Imitating Technical Excellences; How to Spend Words; Counteracting Monotony; Pick Up Fresh Words.

11. Learning to See Again
The Blinders of Habit; Causes of Repetitiousness; Recapturing Innocence of Eye; A Stranger in the Streets; The Rewards of Virtue.

12. The Source Of Originality
The Elusive Quality; Originality Not Imitation; The "Sunrise Ending" ; Honesty, the Source of Originality; Trust Yourself; "Your Anger and My Anger:; One Story, Many Versions; Your Inalienable Uniqueness; A Questionnaire.

13. The Writer's Recreation
Busmen's Holidays; Wordless Recreation; Find Your Own Stimulus; A Variety of Time-Fillers.

14. The Practice Story
A recapitulation; The Contagiousness of Style; Find Your Own Style; The Story in Embryo; The Preparatory Period; Writing Confidently; A Finished Experiment; Time For Detachment; The Critical Reading.

15. The Great Discovery
The Five-Finger Exercises of Writing; The Root of Genius; Unconscious, Not Subconscious; The Higher Imagination; Come to Terms with the Unconscious; The Artistic Coma and the Writer's Magic.

16. The Third Person, Genius
The Writer Not Dual But Triple; The Mysterious Faculty; Releasing Genius; Rhythm, Monotony, Silence; A Floor to Scrub.

17. The Writer's Magic
X is to Mind As Mind to Body; Hold Your Mind Still; Practice in Control; The Story Idea as the Object; The Magic in Operation; Inducting the "Artistic Coma"; Valedictory.

In Conclusion: Some Prosaic Pointers
Typewriting; Have Two Typewriters; Stationary; At the Typewriter: WRITE!; For Coffee Addicts; Coffee Versus Mate; Reading; Books and magazine Buying


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