Tag Archives: Sigmund Freud

Psyche Fiction

3 Apr

At coffee a while ago, in the midst of planning this very website actually, I was talking to Patrick about how writing involves three distinct phases: writing, editing, and selling. The writing phase is pure inspiration, and it spans from the moment an idea begins to form to the second the first draft is done. It is extremely internal and almost mystical in its lack of reasoning. In the editing phase, the writer comes out of that instinctual place and looks at what they’ve produced through objective eyes, based on what they consciously and rationally want to piece to be. The editing phase runs from rewrites to line edits to having someone the writer trusts take a gander at it to make sure they haven’t left out any words. And in the selling phase, the work prepares to enter to world at large and the writer looks at it through the eyes of others. For example: Which agent reps this genre? How does it need to be formatted for each distributor? Is the blurb intriguing enough to catch the attention of readers?

Breaking down the writing process like this is not a new idea, but the spin Patrick put on it was new to me. He equated it to Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego. The writing phase is the Id, full of subconscious desires and patterns that don’t entirely make sense. The editing phase is the Ego, where the writer tries to impose order and reality on what the Id produced. And the selling phase is the Superego, during which the writer works hard to please others with a socially acceptable and desirable product.

 

Freud's diagram of the relationship of id, ego, and superego.

 

I was so excited about this interpretation that I ran it by my mom later that week. Mom’s a counselor and she took it into the mythic land of Jung, applying his labels in addition to Freud’s. In Jung, says Mom, the writing phase is the Shadow, the editing phase is the Self, and the selling phase is the Persona. I’ve always liked Jung better than Freud, so these really appealed to me. I love the vision of a novel being born in my murky Shadow, moving up through my psyche into my Self, then out into the world filtered through my Persona.

 

 

Jung's diagram of the psyche

 

Then recently, my brilliant boyfriend made an additional comment about all this. I told him what Pat said and what Mom added, and he busted out this gem: sometimes writers try to create a first draft while in other phases and it never ends well.

This hit home for me. Last year, I published a book, under a pseudonym and through an Indie publisher. While I’ve published short stories, articles, and poetry in various genres before, this was my first full length book put out by someone else. I was initially thrilled, of course. Who wouldn’t be? But it quickly went all to hell.

In hindsight, what kills me the most was my own actions, in particular what I did to try to make it all work. I got so caught up in marketing and trying to embody how I thought a modern author should be that I spent all my time on social media, pimping and primping. I worried about online book tours, pushed my brand on Facebook and Twitter, reposted celebrity pics on Pinterest, and researched what sold well so I could rework my own ideas to fit the style of the genre. I followed the trends and read the insider magazines and marketed and blogged and ran contests and sent out free stuff. And the whole time, I couldn’t write fiction. I just stopped dead.

I’m not saying that marketing isn’t important. The problem was I became so focused on the selling phase, so wrapped up in my Persona, so worried about how other people saw me, that I lost all touch with my Shadow. And in response, my Shadow got pissed. It didn’t like being told what to do and how to behave all the time. It shut down and shut me out. Shadow, in terms of being creative, is all about play and chaos and running in the rain without an umbrella. It really didn’t like being told it looked stupid with wet hair or informed that it was going catch a cold or asked to care what the neighbors might think. It took its toys and went home.

And the weird part was I really hated thinking about all that stuff too. I love the writing phase best of all, not the selling phase. It’s why I wanted to make money in the first place: so I could spend all my time writing. But when I tried to write while stuck in Persona, I couldn’t do it. It all felt dead and passionless and poisoned with insecurity. As a result, I only managed to write one short story in the entire year after my book came out. And my writer’s block wasn’t from lack of trying. I tried so hard, my soul bled. I had the time. I had the space. I even had the ideas. But I hated myself, my writing, the world. It didn’t work. Not in any aspect.

My boyfriend’s comment was eye opening for me. While I was already becoming aware of where my problems stemmed from, to hear it put so succinctly was stunning. Suddenly the advice of all those writing gurus to just write and not worry about anything else while you get down that first draft made a whole new level of sense to me. How could I be creative when I wasn’t in the right state of mind? How can someone do one thing while trying to do something else completely? I wasn’t blocked. I was out of phase. I was trying to jump rope by eating a sandwich. It was ridiculous. What was I thinking?

So now, I’m back to the Shadow for the moment. Since I’ve been thinking about all this and working on fixing my mind set mistake, I’ve written some stuff. It’s mostly been genre-less or multi-genre, fragments or poems or dabblings. They go nowhere but come from somewhere and were really fun to write. I’m extraordinarily happy with that. Looking for where they go comes later, when my Shadow is totally worn out from playing so much and needs a nap.

 

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