by Juhi Singhal Karan
We asked five bloomers for the best, the most helpful piece of writing advice that they’d received. Here in their own words is the bit of writing wisdom that has stayed with them over the years.
About 25 years ago, when I confessed to my intense activist friend that I wanted to write stories, instead of saying “how silly” or “the world doesn’t need more fiction,” she said, “Read this:” Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande, originally published in 1934, and reclaimed from history’s dustbin in the ’80s by John Gardner. I dove in. Brande asserts that the writer needs to recognize that she has two sides: the child-like enthusiast, who is intuitive and sensitive, and the elder critic, who is discerning and knowledgeable. The enthusiast believes her ideas are fresh and exciting, that her writing is important. The elder doubts it. She points out the many problems. The two neither like nor trust one other. Keep them apart, says Brande. A writer should give full rein to the enthusiast, believing in every word she sets down, then call in the elder for revision. Again and again.
Separate these two sides of writing—this advice freed me. Wanting to retrieve Brande’s exact words, I searched my shelves, but her book is gone. I hope I passed it on to a beginning writer.