Unconscious Writing

The first step towards being a writer is to hitch your unconscious mind to your writing arm.– Dorothea Brande

The 1934 classic Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande, is a practical writing book which is also in tune with current neuroscience. Brande wrote that the writer’s unconscious mind should ‘flow freely and richly, bringing at demand all the treasures of memory’ – meanwhile the conscious mind does the hard work to  ‘control, combine and discriminate’ words and sentences. Our unconscious is the source of our most original stories but it’s a reluctant creature, resisting the discipline that writing requires. Brande has some intriguing exercises designed to tap into the unconscious:

  • Writing immediately after you wake up before any associations invade the mind.
  • Writing at a prearranged time every day.
  • Moments of meditation and mindfulness.

Brande also says, most importantly I think, that every writer has something unique to offer the world:

There is just one contribution which every  one of us can make: we can give into the common pool of experience some comprehension of the world as it looks to each of us.


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