I have been rereading “Becoming A Writer” by Dorothea Brande. It is one of my all time favorites and I have had it in my library for quite some time now.
The basic problems of the writer listed in her book are no different today than they were in 1934 when the book was first published. In her book she doesn’t talk about “the techniques of writing fiction.” In fact it has nothing to do at all with “the techniques of writing fiction.”
Dorothea writes that the root problems of the writer are personality problems. The writer cannot get started, or starts a story well then gets lost or loses heart, or writes very well some of the time, badly the rest of the time. She mentions that all creative writing courses are for most people most of the time failures. The beginning writer who is taking the creative writing course writes brilliantly while the course lasts but after it is over can no longer write. The root problems are problems of confidence, self-respect, freedom.
Now, when I first read this book I hadn’t heard of Julia Cameron. I hadn’t read any of her books nor was I familiar with the fact that she taught creative recovery for artists. Julia’s books are a source of inspiration to many beginning artists and even to those who are blocked.
Come to think of it Julia also talks about problems, problems that have to do with our past as writers or artists. In her exercises she asks us to go back to our childhood years and remember any incident that might have caused us to be blocked creatively. Just like Dorothea Brande writes:
“The writer’s demon is imprisoned by the various ghosts in the unconscious.”
Julia tells us to go to the page every morning right after we wake up and write three pages. “Three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing done before the day begins,” she says, calling them Morning Pages.
While Dorothea suggests we start the day by writing first thing in the morning, for that’s when the writing is the truest, most genuine.
In her book Julia has sections about confidence, self-respect and freedom. The same issues that we find in “Becoming A Writer.”
Julia talks about how much energy the artists possess and how if they don’t put it to good use creatively they become exhausted.
While Dorothea writes, “Becoming a writer is mainly a matter of cultivating a writer’s temperament. The moods and tempers, when they actually exist, are symptoms of the artist’s personality gone wrong- running of into waste effort and emotional exhaustion.”
Julia writes about despair and perseverance. She talks about the need for inspiration and “enriching the soul.” She tells us to show up at the page or the easel no matter what our moods. While Dorothea writes:
“Every writer goes through this period of despair. Without doubt many promising writers, and most of those who were never meant to write, turn back at this point and find a lifework less exacting. Others are able to find the other bank of their slough of despond, sometimes by inspiration, sometimes by sheer doggedness.”
The list goes on. As I mentioned earlier Dorothea’s book was published in 1934. And for a small book of 175 pages it has priceless advice for writers (even) today.
“True originality can come only from within.” Dorothea Brande