Sunday, 21 October 2012

Writing Habits: 'Becoming a Writer' by Dorothea Brande

Although I love to watch films and TV, listen to music, go the the theatre and read widely, I do find it hard to write with other people's words still in my head. A bit of space is necessary between the activities for my own words to arrive.

Picking up Dorothea Brande's book, 'Becoming a Writer' which I haven't looked at for years, I opened it randomly at page 133 and under the heading Wordless Recreation, her words were;

If you want to stimulate yourself into writing, amuse yourself in a wordless way. Instead of going to a theater, hear a symphony orchestra, or go by yourself to a museum; go alone for long walks, or ride by yourself on a bus top.

I realised that she's absolutely right. When I do any of these things they do very often stimulate my writing, even although this is not the reason I'm doing them. Ok I don't go to listen to symphony orchestras. My tastes in classical music are limited and there's always one thing on a concert programme I know and like and a whole lot of things I'd find boring. My musical tastes are more in folk, rock and blues music and I acknowledge that their lyrics can interfere with my own creativity.

On the other hand I find visiting museums and galleries by myself hugely exciting. I can look at exactly what I like and spend an hour on the minutiae of one exhibit if I want to, without boring my husband to death or having to follow kids to the toilet/cafe/shop every five minutes.  And going on journeys alone, on foot, train, bus, car or plane takes me into other worlds, where my imagination is freed.

Dorothea Brande's book is full of great insights like this. When it was first recommended to me I nearly didn't bother to read it, as it was written so long ago. I felt she couldn't possibly tell me anything relevant to my generation and my writing. She'd never even seen a computer, for heavens' sake! But I did read it and from her wise and totally unpretentious words I realised that I had already become a writer and she also showed me how to carry on being a writer.

So, have you given up on all those starry-eyed, pseudo-spiritual books on writing which appear everywhere? Are you even more fed up with the 'How to Write a Best-Seller in Six Days/Six Chapters/Six Websites' genre, then I can recommend going back to basics with Dorothea Brande. It doesn't matter what you are trying to write: fiction, poetry, journalism, scripts, memoir or even academic theses. She can help remind you of how the process of writing works in your own mind. She really can!

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