“The wave is the sea itself yet, when it rises in the form of a wave, it is the wave and when you look at the whole of it, it is the sea.

“There is an Arabic saying, 'If you wish to know God, you must know yourself.' How little man knows while he is in the intoxication of individualism! ... We are connected with one another. Our lives are tied together, and there is a link in which we can see one current running through all. There are many globes and lamps, and yet one current is running through all.” — Hazrat Inayat Khan, In an Eastern Rose Garden, Vol. VII: “Mind, Human and Divine”

Free (superlative) book on writing fiction: Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande

One of the best books on writing I know is a classic first published in 1934 called Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Focused on fiction-writing, it is a gentle, encouraging book that simultaneously requires our commitment to our writing.

And it helps this along by, among other things, being the first (to my knowledge) to suggest separating out the fluid, unconscious writing from the mental, analytical editorial critiquing. (Too often, the analytical critic is given full rein at the beginning: a big mistake! That part of us (call it “superego” or whatever) is all too willing to find fault, the “what’s missing,” instead of letting the less orderly, more associative inner genius (call it “inner child” or whatever) have full rein. She has a process for working with this. It’s intelligent, and — if worked with — it bears fruit.

“ST. catherine reading a book,” by Carlo Dolci (17th Century

“ST. catherine reading a book,” by Carlo Dolci (17th Century

The contents of the book include (but are not limited to):

  • The Difficulty of Writing at All

  • Cultivating a Writer's Temperament

  • The Process of Story Formation

  • Imagination vs. Will in Changing Habits

  • Displacing Old Habits

  • Wordless DayDreams

  • Writing on Schedule

  • Reading as a Writer

  • Learning to See Again

  • The Source of Originality

Here is a quote from the Introduction:

[The aspiring writer] may never dare to bracket himself for a moment with the immortals of writing, but the disclaimer that genius cannot be taught, which most teachers and authors seem to feel must be stated as early and abruptly as possible, is the death knell of his real hope. He had longed to hear that there was some magic about writing, and to be initiated into the brotherhood of authors. This book, I believe, will be unique; for I think he is right. I think there is such a magic, and that it is teachable. This book is about the writer’s magic.

While the book is still in print (as I say, it’s a classic) and can be bought from a bookstore or most likely found in the library, because it’s now in the public domain, it is available for free online. That said, it may be worth owning your own copy, because (a) there is nothing like a book in the hand, and (b) this pdf version has some typos (!) and is not visually well designed. Nevertheless, the content is gold, and here’s a good way to encounter it.

Here is the link to the free pdf (with typos): Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande.

And to purchase your very own book —

Novelist Elizabeth Berg’s words of wisdom for writers:

Elizabeth Berg is a wonderful (and, deservedly, bestselling) novelist — I have read almost all her books, and loved almost all of them (the exception was a historical novel). One thing I love about her is her own love for her characters — even when difficult and sad things are happening to them, there is a nuanced depiction and a deep respect for them, and for life itself. Another thing I love is how comforting her books are, without being in the least bit saccharine or trite. Her books are like friends: they open the eyes and the heart, and one is left with a sense of gratitude and acceptance.

The intent to comfort is not accidental, it turns out. A former nurse prior to taking up writing as a profession, she says she was always more interested in the patients’ lives than in the technical virtuosity of nursing. I recently watched, online, a video of a reading she did at a library in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Her warmth, depth, and transparency were instantly apparent. And in an earlier interview with Writers Digest (March/April 2010), she talked about her writing process and philosophy. Here is the part I want to share with you. I agree with her completely, and am grateful she put this into print:

“If I could say anything to aspiring writers, it’s to keep your own counsel, first and foremost. There’s nothing wrong with listening to what other people have to say, and I used to be one of your readers who would gaze longingly at those pictures of people who are published and think, Oh man, what must it be like? But there is something inside of a person that makes them be a writer in the first place. That’s a strong and true thing. And you can have your head turned very easily by the business of writing. It’s so important to keep it church and state—keep it separate. The process of writing and creating and answering that very unique call inside yourself has nothing to do with agents and sales and all that stuff. I can tell you as someone who’s enjoyed a lot of success in my career that nothing matches the feeling you have when you get it right on the page, when you please yourself in that very intimate way: That’s always the best thing, no matter what happens. For me it is, anyway.

“Your mission should not be to be a bestselling author. Your mission should be to answer the call and to write in the best way you can what you need to write. First do the work, then think about where you’re going to sell it.”

If you would like to see the YouTube video of her reading at that library and have the pleasure of her humanness and company as well as snippets of her writing read aloud, here it is.

You also can buy her excellent book on writing, Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True. To read more about the book, click here. To purchase it, click below.

(More inspirations to come soon)