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Book Review: Becoming a Writer & Freebie

Becoming a writerDorothea Brande was a creative writing teacher who took issue with the idea that “genius cannot be taught.” She wrote this book in 1934. It is still recommended as a resource for writers, but it’s not a technical how-to book. It’s more of pep talk for writers, especially those who feel they just don’t have what it takes.

About the Book

Brande found that her students “longed to hear that there was some magic about writing,” as if the magic was real and they could become authors by knowing the secret. She maintained that writing genius is indeed teachable, but accessing it involves work ( a four-letter word).

She shared four misconceptions that she encountered in her students:

  • They thought that, if they had a gift for writing, it should be easy.
  • Some had what she called early success but could not repeat it.
  • Others wrote well but in spurts with long dry spells between.
  • Some were what she called “uneven writers,” those who could not carry the story to completion.

Brande taught her students how to access their unconscious mind. I think today, we’d say she taught them how to “get in the zone.” She differentiated between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. Note she did not call it “subsconscious.” She felt that the unconscious mind was equal to the conscious and that calling it “subconscious” suggested that it was inferior.

She prescribed a number of exercises to help students access their unconscious. Some of the tips in the book include “pushing past weariness” so that you get your second wind. One exercise, writing at a scheduled time every day, is recommended by many contemporary writing teachers. And, Brande says, if you don’t have the discipline to write at a scheduled time, you may as well quit. Wow. Few writing teachers will say that in print.

The last chapter is titled “Prosaic Pointers.” I won’t spoil it for you. But the pointers involve reading a lot and having more than one typewriter (no computers back then). Oh, and coffee is mentioned.

If you’re feeling down about your writing or suffering from writer’s block, I recommend you read this book. It is very different from any writing book I’ve read. The language is dated, but I did not find that a stumbling block at all.

About the Freebie

In my search for more information about Dorothea Brande, I found what appears to be the entire book in PDF format, free. Download it here.

Readers, have you read this book? What did you think of it? Share in the comments. (If you receive my weekly newsletter, you must click through to my website to comment. Just click on the article title at the top of the newsletter. Then, once on my site, scroll down to “Leave a reply.”

Photo by Emily M. Akin

2 Responses to Book Review: Becoming a Writer & Freebie

  1. Terry Whalin March 20, 2016 at 8:30 am #


    Thank you for this post. I’ve read lots of books on writing but never heard of this one. I appreciated the link to the PDF and have downloaded it. Just looking at the table of contents I see great value.

    Keep up the good work on this blog.

    The Writing Life

  2. Emily Akin March 20, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    My late friend, Judy Sliger (who was coordinator of KY Christian Writers Conference 2009), told me about this one. You may not know that Judy fought ovarian cancer for several years. She passed away in 2014. She also recommended “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. I had never heard of either one. I reviewed the Ueland book here: And thanks for the encouragement.

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