Psychology of Writing- Protect the Art and the Writer is Happy
“Somebody at one of these places asked me: “What do you do? How do you write, create?” You don’t, I told them. You “don’t try”. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.”
Out of all art creators, writers are a special breed. Their stereotypical garb, attitude, ritualistic practices, and night owl tendencies are not cliché but only a play of psychology. To others, it might seem invisible, but there is a profound connection between writers and the way they work.
Apart from the love for the art, a lot goes into making one a prolific creator. Or as Bukowski says, “you wait” for the “bug on the wall”- this hints at psychology being whimsical.
Before you hire a writer and set skyrocketing expectations, take a peek and know-how a writer is wired. For writers, it is worthwhile to perceive certain psychological tools that can help produce good writing. With this meta-learning of how a writer thinks it becomes simpler to cure a writer’s block.
What is the Psychology of Writing?
All good writers have a set of strategies, rituals (sometimes odd) and routines to fire their psychology to write. They make use of elements in the environment to fuel creativity, certain practices to get them in a productive state and rituals that prep them for the day ahead. These activities act as a trigger to induce ideas, writing structure, knowledge and frame of mind to begin with the elaborate process.
Theories after theories have been compiled up to understand how a writer’s mind functions and all that goes behind producing a piece of quality content. While every writer is different and the elements that get him in the ”flow” are subjective, some common psychological elements are potent enough to push a writer to do what he does. Consider this a cheat sheet to make your writer happy.
Elements that Work Behind the Psychology of Writing
You may never know what might spark a writer’s creativity. A cup of coffee, barefoot walking on grass, a certain sitting posture or special stationery. The kinks can be countless, and so can their effects. As writers, it is essential to understand how your psychology works and how it aids your writing.
While the idiosyncrasies that go on in writers’ mind are highly personalized, look out for the following habits or preferences which hint at how a writer thinks.
1. Location, Location, Location
Ask any writer, and he will go on about how his environment serves as a source of inspiration for writing. Some may find it comfortable to write in a noisy office, and others may look for a corner of quiet to let the creative juices flow. Speaking of notorious writing environments, Agatha Christie sat in her bathtub and munched apples to think of the perfect murder plot. If this seems absurd, Sir Walter Scott, the poet wrote on a horseback
The psychology behind choosing the perfect work environment is to find or erect a place, a setting, or a corner that appeals to the senses and stimulates. As per psychology, a varying, changing and revealing vistas build an environment that stimulates. This process is also called cognitive cueing.
If you cherish your writer, it would be best to consult him and build a stimulating environment as per his creative calling.
“A writer is working when he’s staring out of the window.”
~ Burton Rascoe
You might often catch a writer staring into nothingness. It may appear like he is whiling away his time, but this, “idea incubation period” decides how a piece of content will turn out. Hence, brainstorming or jogging the mind is a very powerful pre-writing ritual. Such habits are a prerequisite to all creative skills.
Most writers have a brainstorming buddy to unravel ideas and shape newer dimensions to create a prolific piece. Therefore, if you find your writer talking to people and asking questions before actually beginning, he is probably fishing for fresher ideas and alternative perspectives. After all, what is writing but a web of well-woven, crisp ideas?
Apart from giving the writer a brief of what you expect the finished to look like, sit with him and brainstorm questions, theories, and opinions. Give him something to think about or concepts that piques his interests.
3. It’s Not the Same as a School Essay
To compose something original, you simply take an idea, expound on it, and defend your perspective. That’s writing in a nutshell. Seems easy right? But that’s not it. There goes a lot into making a paragraph with reading. You identify your readers, decide on the tone, filter the ideas you are going to elaborate and the means to justify your beliefs and come back with clever rebuttals to comment on what’s trending. A writer does all this while looking for clever ways to optimise content as per SEO (for the online audience). He reads and re-reads every word he writes and fishes for ways to produce something totally unparalleled; which his competitors were unable to perceive.
This makes the sacred art of writing difficult yet unique and appealing.
4. Understand the Role of Inspiration
“I only write when I’m inspired, so I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock.”
~ Peter De Vries
All writers are magicians who create content out of thin air. But what fuels this process is the inspiration to write. An inspiration acts like a psychological incentive that motivates a writer to wield out his pen or aggressively type away on his keyboard.
Some writers are naturally inspired and aren’t under any pressure to produce thousand or more words in a day. But others in the commercial domain have to jot words up to a limit. In such cases, the writer has to find inspiration in all the best places. He may be full of ideas, but the yearning or eagerness to write would be missing.
In this scenario, the following are the most common ways a writer can fill his vile with inspiration:
- Retire from the hum-drum of mundane life and travel.
- Observe and analyze the ordinary from different perspectives.
- Workout to release endorphins and give that idea churning machine some rest.
- Talk to people and learn about fascinating incidents.
- Build your own deadlines.
- Become a sponge and absorb inspiration from whatever you read or watch. Remember that
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
~ Stephen King
- Go out in nature and soak in all the positivity.
- Develop a creative routine or a ritualistic practice. For instance, James Joyce wrote with a blue pencil, wearing a white coat while lying on his stomach.
Some of them may seem odd, but these practices easily incite inspiration and compliment good writing tips too.
5. It’s More Than the Number of Words
Speaking of the gig economy, there were about 57 million freelancers in America in 2017. The numbers are bound to inflate by 2027, where most Americans will enter the freelancing market. Out of these, freelance writing is a popular career choice.
Ever wondered why there are so many freelance writers? It is probably because a freelance writer has the freedom to choose his projects. Moreover, they have the liberty to set “realistic” deadlines. This is something that commercial writers aren’t entitled to. Maybe it’s for this reason that it’s possible to make a six-figure income as a freelance writer.
Whether you are a staff writer, novelist or a freelancer, writing should always be about creating quality content; it was never about the number of words.
When you tell your writer to produce a set number of words, you put him under a psychological pressure that restricts creativity.
6. Stop Trying to Standardize
“We want a thousand worded blog by EOD. It’s doable right?”
Well, guess what the golden rule of writing is? It’s always quality over quantity. All those who believe otherwise are yet to meet good writers.
If you consider blogs, articles, whitepapers, guides, etc., one of the primary assets of your marketing strategies, give a writer enough time to conceptualise and come up with something unique. Know that a writer has to internalise what he is going to write about, and only then can he finally produce something worth reading.
When you are writing for yourself, there are practically no psychological barriers, but the same is not true for other types of writing. Commercial writing comes with time restrictions. The deadline to produce a certain number of words within a timeframe is not only tedious but also an assault. It is an assault on a writer’s chain of thoughts. Moreover, it is a limit to his creativity.
Here, standardization emerges as the biggest problem. Employers try to standardize the process of writing and segment it into time slots. This restrain puts a writer under extra pressure. Consequently, writing gets hampered.
It is essential that everyone perceives writing as a consolidated creative process- it is ever-evolving and dynamic. The most heinous crime would be to bifurcate elements of this creative process and allot them a time-line. Each style of writing is different, every writer is different, and only a limitation-free environment makes a good writer. As no two writers are similar, there should exist no ground for comparison.
A lot is expected of a writer, and the perspective of expectations range from an editor's to a marketing officer's to a businessman's and most importantly the audience's. Notwithstanding his/her own expectations of himself/herself, a writer can't help but try and perfect every perspective. As such, there is immense pressure from not just external sources, but also internal ones. Managing such immense compulsion often comes with an overwhelmingness that is bound to affect a writer's willingness to give his/her 100% every day. This is the primary reason why the main job of editors and the likes is to help writers stay clear of unnecessary outsider viewpoints. With experience, writers learn to internalise solutions to these. As a result, editors are comfortable allowing the experienced ones to work independently.