Dorothea Brande Inspires The Spindle Story

I’m reading Dorothea Brande’s book, Becoming a Writer[1] as recommended by Hilary Mantel in a recent article, Ten Rules for Writers.

Chapter 5, Brande recommends writing upon waking, you know… we call them ‘morning pages’ nowadays. ‘…[Y]ou must teach the unconscious to flow into the channel of writing….’, which is done best, Brande writes, ‘…when the unconscious is in the ascendant….’ [2] first thing in the morning before the day’s distractions begin.

This is what I wrote this morning:

Do not talk. Do not engage — go directly to your journal and write.

No dreams recordable this morning. They all seem to have escaped or leaked or spilled out of my head. I should check my pillow; perhaps they are trapped amongst the folds, still warm and sleepy.

But I have a vision, a scene that awoke with me — no beginning or end, just a middle, a staircase descending from a deck. The deck detail recedes, the backdrop is green and grassy and in the furthest distance, treed.

In focus is the right-sided rail as I step down. Oak, the grain is distinct and knotty.

One of the spindles is broken, no longer descends all the way to the bottom rail. It hides its story though, shamed. I have arrived too late to witness or to stop.

I stare as I pass, my hand trailing the rail, then I look away.


  1. Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande, Kindle edition, first published, 1934 — sorry, the edition I downloaded does not include any further information such as publisher, location, etc.  ↩
  2. ibid. loc 401 and 430  ↩
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2 thoughts on “Dorothea Brande Inspires The Spindle Story”

  1. I often feel that I have my best ideas and moments of greatest clarity when I’m on my bike. I don’t know if that’s because my conscious mind is occupied with keeping me alive, because a regular commute allows my mind to wander, or because my raised pulse delivers more oxygen to my brain.

    One of these days, I should probably start experimenting to see if I can confirm or reject any of these hypotheses, but I’m not sure how I’d measure the outcomes.

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    1. I’m guessing all three factors contribute to your clarity during bike rides. But I think we’ve all experienced moments where the subconscious, or the creative parts of our thinking come closer to our surface awareness, our conscious thought, those moments when time and distraction seem distant or vanished altogether.

      When we return to our everyday thoughts and activities, we wonder where we’ve been, where the time went, how we got to where we are. Daydreams are like that.

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