Becoming a Writer


“My name’s Tracy Thomson and as co-founder of the Sotogrande Writer’s club, (,  I am delighted, and sufficiently audacious, to have welcomed myself on board!

I’ve just finished my first novel, Kiss the Candle Goodnight – an eco-political thriller set in the Sumatran Rain forest. It took me two years and is now being submitted to agents.

But enough of me, during my apprenticeship to novel writing, for that is what happens,  I became an avid reader of nothing but advice and below are excerpts from the earliest book I came across, by DOROTHEA BRANDE, ‘Becoming a Writer.‘ She penned this in 1934 and I read the reprint that came out Jan 1981. (First Published by Harcourt, Brace, New York.)

The famous creative writing teacher and writer, JOHN GARDNER wrote a fantastic foreword to this which I also recommend reading. The link to Amazon lets you look inside.

I shall start where Dorothea Brande ends,

‘When you sit down to write do not sit idle. Avoid the habits that we employ to induce procrastination.’

Brande’s common-sense approach is packed with wisdom. She talks about the need to see as if through the eyes of a captivated child. It reminds me of a Michael Parkinson interview, with Dennis Potter shortly before the author died. He was in great pain, but in getting ready to leave this world his eyes saw only wonder and splendour. He showed us life’s delicate beauty in the commonplace where once I had forgotten to look.  A remarkable man. This freshness of response is what Brande knew was ‘vital to the author’s talent.’

Here is more of her splendid advice.

Page 48,

‘The unconscious is shy, elusive and unwieldy, but it is possible to learn to tap it at will, and even to direct it. The conscious mind is meddlesome, opinionated, and arrogant, but it can be made subservient to the inborn talent through training.’

Page 53,

‘If you leave it to the more sensitive side of your nature to set the conditions of work and living for you, you may find yourself at the end of your days with very little to show for the gifts you were born with.’

Page 153,

She talks about an ‘artistic coma’ that afflicts us so thoroughly that we feel defeated, but we need not worry,

Something is at work, but so deeply and wordlessly that it hardly gives a sign of its activity till it is ready to externalize its vision.’

We all know what she’s talking about, let us end on that word, INSPIRATION.”

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