Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Psychology of Writing

The psychology of writing would have made an interesting doctoral thesis. I read of writer's frustration, writer's block and writer's angst. And writers subject themselves to this daily, yearly…willingly. All for that illusive moment of euphoria, when they know they've chosen the perfect words and wrapped them around an engaging plot. But it is a rare moment, and it is fleeting. It is followed closely by worry about the next words or, worse, doubt about those words that only days ago seemed like gems. Anxiety leads to rearrangement of those perfect words like they were flowers in a vase that just might look a little more balanced if the gerbera were shifted a little here or the baby's breath there.

I confess to being guilty of all of the above. It feels quite inexplicable at times. I mean, I don't have to write. I certainly get to choose what I write. So, why subject myself to the internal anguish? I have no answer to that except that "I must" and that feeling is as baffling as the subjugation to the pleasure/pain process.

This week I have been working on Mags' story, a character I met in Lizzy's world. I started with enthusiasm and then stalled. I have written the first two chapters and several scenes that occur further on. But, as I stare at the computer, I find myself looking for something else to write, something else to do. Scenes for other stories I am writing infiltrate and I grab onto them, getting them down, patting myself on the back because, hey, I'm writing, right?

Finally, I realized what was happening. I like Mags—a lot. She's already had a hard go of it and deserves a little happiness. However, that's not what's coming. I know this. I see this. And, I hurt for her before her pain even begins. As long as I don't write, she stays in a pseudo-happy limbo land. The moment I begin, there is no turning back. She will never again be the same sweet Mags I met in Lizzy's story.

On the other hand, nobody is truly happy living in limbo, including an author. So, I pushed through the reticence and wielded my pen, metaphorically slaying a seventeen year old. Undoing her world. Burying her deep enough in the ugly hole that life can be sometimes, that it will take her the whole novel to dig her way out…if she can. I don't know. I can't see that yet. Perhaps, if I could, I wouldn't have been so hung up on flinging her into it in the first place.

I've changed my mind. I don't think the doctoral thesis should focus on the psychology of writing but the psychology of the writer. Speaking for myself, it is one busy mixed-up world inside of my head. It might make for an interesting study. Here's hoping it makes for interesting stories.  J


  1. I know what you mean. Being mean to my characters can gut me. But...that's what the story needs to be more than a grocery list. So, on we go. Bring on the angst!

  2. It's crazy how real these characters become, isn't it? You have worked hard on your WIP. Best of luck with upping the angst!

  3. I made my editor cry with my last book. Me, I was too numb by what I'd done to the characters for tears. It's a cruel perversity that requires we torture them and then hope to smooth out all the damage. Here's to pushing through the difficult scenes to reach the happier moments!

  4. I've been known to cry at my own work...which makes me laugh. Ah, the power we wield in our own minds. :0) Thanks so much for dropping by and cheers to the happier moments!