Writing is will and imagination

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 book which is remarkably in tune with current brain science. Brande believes the writer’s unconscious mind should ‘flow freely and richly, bringing at demand all the treasures of memory’, while the conscious mind does the hard word work to  ‘control, combine and discriminate’.

Photo: Moria cave, Karamea

Writing is will and imagination; it depends both on unbidden impulses and on careful, considered dedication to the tools of language. Malcolm Bradbury

But the unconscious can be a reluctant creature, resisting the discipline that writing requires. Brande has some intriguing exercises to achieve the interaction between will and imagination. Here are three exercises designed to ‘tap’ the unconscious:

  • Writing immediately after you wake up  before any associations invade the mind (I feel the resistance already).
  • Writing at a prearranged time every day.
  • Meditation to improve clarity (this fits with current neuroscience ideas).

Brande  also suggests our unconscious is the source of our most original stories, and most importantly, that every writer has something unique to offer:

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.

Photo: morning, Lake Alexandrina.


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