The Psychology of Writing

Hi Everyone

How’s your writing going?

Flowing? Stuck? Plot holes? Invigorating? In its early stages, its final stages?

No matter where you are in your writing journey there is a psychology to writing that can help or hinder your creative process.

Let’s break it down.

  1. Writing is hard work.

This is probably a truth universally acknowledged however, until I actually finished my first book, I don’t think I truly understood the nature of what ‘hard work’ meant. Now I understand the first draft is not the last, and there are probably upwards of 4 – 104 drafts in between these two stages. By drafting I mean re-shaping and refining. Then there are the peripheral activities: writing a blog, promotion, articulating new ideas, keeping accounts, keeping track of submissions, as well as the writing itself. The psychology I need to deal with the reality of the writing process is to understand the nature of what I’ve taken on and commit myself to completing it. Which means, turning up to the page, actually finishing a draft and being brave enough to seek feedback. Each step is daunting but one step at a time, it is possible to finish a writing project.

2. Why do you write? I think understanding your underlying motivations can help you through difficult times in your creative journey.

Do you write for 1 of the 4 reasons Orwell suggests: Egoism, Aesthetic enthusiasm, Historical impulse, or Political purpose?

Or is it, perhaps, as Louisa May Alcott so adroitly says:

I want to do something splendid…

Something heroic or wonderful that

won’t be forgotten after I’m dead…

I think I shall write books.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Knowing your motivations can not only help you when the writing gets hard but can also help you understand the kind of stories you want to tell. Do you want to entertain? Enlighten? Educate or Astound? Do you want to write serials that keep people wanting to read more or would you rather dwell on a book for a year or more, seeking to fathom its depths and produce more literary works? Knowing the reasons you write can help you see through the long-term commitment that creating a work requires.

3. Doubts are a normal part of the creative process but how best to manage them?

The doubts are always going to be there (‘I can’t write’, ‘I don’t want to write’, ‘This is supposed to be fun’, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘Will anyone a) ever read this b) enjoy it if they do?’). Doubts are a writer’s worst enemy but they can be diminished if we remember to treasure the fact that we are willing to make something out of nothing. What a wonderful thing! The more we appreciate that the act of creating itself is worthwhile and magical, the more we flourish.

And, to finish, a quote from Hanif Kureishi which sums up so much of what the psychology of writing and becoming a writer is about:

I was afraid to write because I was ashamed of my feelings and beliefs. The practice of any art can be a good excuse for self-loathing. You require a certain shamelessness to be any kind of artist. But to be shameless you need not to mind who you are.

Sometimes writers like to imagine that the difficulty of becoming a writer resides in convincing others that that is what you are. But really the problem is in convincing yourself.

Dreaming and Becoming: Reflections on Writing and Politics

Happy writing – I can’t wait to hear what you’ve created!

Until next time,

Jacqui.

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