Becoming a Writer and Committed to Memory – Week in Books #39

Although she wrote this book of advice on writing nearly 80 years ago, Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer is excellent encouragement and good medicine if you’re engaged in or contemplating writing in any fashion.  Unlike many books of writing craft, this one deals primarily with intangibles that afflict beginning writers, and since I’m struggling with many of them myself I found it helpful.  Most of all, I appreciated Brande’s perspective that one should not let frustrations like writer’s block or wondering if you’re any good get in the way of a desire to write, and that rather than being paralyzed by doubt and slain by your inner critic, you can find ways around common missteps and around common pitfalls.  I’d recommend this book if you’re the type of person who enjoys reading about writing.

Because I’m always on the lookout for good pieces of poetry and whatnot for the kids to memorize, I picked up Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize.  After reading through it, I was left wondering what makes these poems the best to memorize?  I did find a few that I think would be good to know, but was surprised at those omitted from the list.  The selections seemed heavily focused on American poetry and that of one era, rather than a good collection of the poetry and prose that are most often quoted or alluded to in other literature, or that which has been most often learned in the past.  Because my own education was sadly lacking in this type of memorization, I often wish I had a list of things the average educated person should know by heart.  If any readers are aware of such a list or a book that has a more rigorous criteria for selection than this one, please let me know!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

6 thoughts on “Becoming a Writer and Committed to Memory – Week in Books #39

  1. I read “Becoming a writer” many years ago when I was doing my A-levels and entertained ideas of becoming a writer someday. It must 15 years since I read it, but I remember enjoying it and finding it useful. I did end up working as a writer for a while, although I was technical writer rather than a writer of fiction.

    As to the list, I feel that a truly educated person is one who has gone out and chosen things to learn on their own merit, rather than because someone somewhere has said you need to memorise certain things in order to be thought well-educated. You are clearly a well-educated and very intelligent person and wouldn’t need a third person telling you what you should know. I, personally, would be wary of any such list since it would inevitably be tainted by the personal preferences of its author. Just my opinion, feel free to tell me to be quiet 🙂

    1. I suppose what I mean by a list of things to know is the things that would most enhance enjoyment of other things. For example, lots of old literature contains direct quotes from famous poems or passages, and I’ve always felt in the dark. Then again, I feel the same way about the fact that I don’t speak French and vast swaths of older literature is in French. I suppose one can never been too learned. 🙂

      And I would never tell you to be quiet, Paula! Speak freely whenever you wish!

      1. Ah, I’m with you! I always felt somewhat in the dark reading a lot of Yeats’ poetry because he made such frequent references to classic mythology, something my formal education was woefully lacking in. I made a point of going off and reading the references on my own, but a list of where to look would have been useful. I second the need for such a list. Sorry I missed the point!

        I always feel rather dim when I’m reading older books and they have passages in French, clearly expecting the reader to understand them. My basic French isn’t up to much, but luckily my husband is a fluent French speaker, so I just show him the passage to get a translation 🙂

  2. Oh, if you find such a good list of things to memorize, please post it here. My favorite way to determine “good” things to memorize or read is to compare lists from various “favorite” sources. When books overlap, then I know we really need to cover them. Unfortunately, such lists are woefully lacking when it comes to memory work. And I am terribly inadequate to even judge the few I’ve found. 🙁

  3. Have you looked at The Harp and Laurel Wreath? I have it but haven’t had a chance to really look through it. It is a collection of poems, passages, etc., for memorization. I’ve seen it mentioned on a number of homeschooling blogs and on message boards. It might be worth a look. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

CommentLuv badge

A Spirited Mind HomeAboutReadingWritingParenting

Thank you for joining the conversation at A Spirited Mind! Please keep your comments kind and friendly, even if you're disagreeing with me or another commenter. Comments that use inappropriate language, or that are cruel, threatening, or violent will be deleted. I'm sure you understand!