By Carol Coven Grannick
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, and also not big on setting huge lofty goals. I like tiny steps and constant renewal. So I’d like to share a resource that will refresh and renew your writing life, if or when it needs the input.
In 1934, Dorothea Brande had the brains and courage to insist that attention to the writer’s heart and mind is the first step in becoming a writer. That books on craft are useless without those first steps.
And while I don’t spend a lot of time with regret, after picking up Dorothea Brande’s short book Becoming a Writer, on the recommendation of a critique partner, I did give in to a bit of regret. I couldn’t help wishing my undergraduate creative writing degree had begun with this work. I have no question that my committed, productive, energetic writing life would have begun much earlier had I read this book.
If you’ve read the book, and found it important, skip this column and pass the book along. If you haven’t read the book, find it (it’s back in print, and it’s in plenty of libraries). This book belongs right next to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird on your writer’s bookshelf. Maybe in front of it.
A taste of her no-nonsense content:
- “The stupid conclusion that if [the writer] cannot write easily he has mistaken his career is sheer nonsense.”
- Writers do—and must—have “dual personalities”: the workman and critic, and the artist, cognitive skills and unconscious working in balance and tandem.
- Writers should write “morning pages” to create and maintain a brain-muscle habit of writing. (Brande made this recommendation long before Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.)
- It is necessary to recognize, but move beyond, resistance to the work.
In my last Prairie Wind column I wrote, “…for me the source of working at staying resilient is telling myself the truth about what keeps me whole and alive in the way I need to feel alive. And that’s the everlasting need to create my place in the world through language, and to make sense of my inner world via the written word.”
I do wish I’d gotten there earlier in life, but I’m grateful to be there now. Brande’s little book with big ideas validates the emotional and intellectual place writers need to be, and provides guidelines for getting and staying there.
The inner life of the writer can always use nurturing, and Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer is a wonderful way to refresh a productive new writing year – anytime at all.
Carol Coven Grannick writes picture books and middle-grade novels. In private practice as a clinical social worker, she works with writers and others to create and maintain emotional resilience. She can be reached at email@example.com.