Why you should never judge a book by its cover… or its first publication date!

One of the suggested reading books for the MA in Professional Writing was a book titled ‘Becoming a Writer’ by Dorothea Brande. It was first published in 1934 and Brande refers to using a typewriter throughout. I am now embarrassed to admit that when I started the book, after seeing the first publication date, I was not looking forward to it, assuming that it would be archaic and irrelevant.

I absolutely loved the book. I devoured it in a couple of hours and by the end I felt like Brande was my grandma’s very clever, very kind friend, imparting her wisdom. By chapter two I was laughing and thoroughly enjoying Brande’s description of what writers are like. One of the sub-titles ‘”Dissociation” Not Always Psychopathic’ instantly got my attention. It led onto my favourite quote from the book.

A dual personality, to the reader who has a number of half-digested notions about the constitution of the mind, is an unlucky fellow who should be in a psychopathic ward; or, at the happiest, a flighty, hysterical creature. Nevertheless, every author is a very fortunate sort of dual personality, and it is this very fact that makes him such a bewildering, tantalizing, irritating figure to the plain man of affairs who flatters himself that he, at least, is all of a piece. But there is no scandal and no danger in recognizing that you have more than one side to your character.

Well, there’s a relief! Brande also goes into detail about the root of genius but to learn about her wisdom on that subject, I will let you read the book. There are many writing books that seem to overcomplicate the process of writing or imply that only very gifted writers will ever succeed. I found Brande’s view that writing is an art form and like all artists, writers much practice in order to perfect their art very motivational. There’s hope for us all yet!

I would thoroughly recommend the book to anyone interested in the psychology of writing or hoping to improve his or her own writing.

Becoming a writer

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