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 be both taught and learned. So she is enraged by the pessimistic authors of so many writing books who rejoice in trying to put off the aspiring writer by constantly stressing how difficult it all is.
With close reference to the great writers of her day--Wolfe, Forster, Wharton and so on--Brande gives practical but inspirational advice about finding the right time of day to write and being very self disciplined about it--"You have decided to write at four o'clock, and at four o'clock you must write." She's strong on confidence building and there's a lot about cheating your unconscious which will constantly try to stop you writing by coming up with excuses. Then there are exercises to help you get into the right frame of mind and to build up writing stamina.
This edition comes with an informative foreword by the late Malcolm Bradbury, a man who knew a thing or two about teaching writing, having pioneered the innovative MA course in creative writing at the University of East Anglia which nurtured, among many other writers, Rose Tremain, Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro. It's a pity, however, that Brande (and Bradbury) define "writing" so narrowly. They refer only to novels and short stories--ignoring biography, travel writing, plays, poems, essays and reportage. In fact, Brande is unreasonably dismissive of journalism as if it were just an uncreative, prostituted form of "real" writing. --Susan Elkin