3 Tips From A Psychologist To Improve Your Writing

After spending 6 years studying Psychology, most people frown when I tell them I’m devoting myself to writing.

“…And Screenwriting too? Why won’t you study cinematography instead?”

Let me break it down for you, smarty pants. Psychology is intimately related to writing. After all, your brain remains the real MVP behind your stories.

And we psychologists know that. In fact, there’s an increasing amount of publications about creative writing and psychology during the 2000s. Forgeard, Kaufman, and Kaufman talk about this in depth in their book: “The Psychology of Creative Writing”

Good, but why should this matter to you?

Simple. Because Psychology it’s not just about psychotherapy, human resources or mind reading –especially not about mind reading.

No, Psychology has some helpful tips to offer you in order to improve your writing, and in this post, I’m gonna share them with you.

1. The flow chart -or why you get “bored”

Flow is a must-known theory for those who want to improve in any craft, art or sport. And understanding the basics is not that difficult:

We have two variables:

  1. The complexity or difficulty of what you’re about to do

  2. Your skills to do so

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So, let’s say you’re about to write a Fiction book that needs you to know a lot about crime scenes and poisons. If you start right away, the complexity of the task would be high, and if you know nothing about poisons (which makes me glad) your skill levels would be somewhat low.

This will lead to anxiety and probably, to giving up on your book at an early stage.

So, what can you learn about this? Most of the times when you are feeling bored or anxious, you might need to do some training before going on. Read a writing book or take a course and go back to your writing.

Also, it’s not about just feeling in control or relaxed. But about attaining Flow. That’s when great writing comes in.

2. Procrastination? Change your mindset

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Oh, procrastination, the sweet joy of accumulating WIPs.

If you find yourself constantly struggling to work on that one-million dollar idea for a Fiction or Non-fiction book. The problem might be within your mindset.

Sometimes keeping a perfectionist standard can do a great harm to your work, especially when you confuse what you create or produce with what your real worth as a person is.

This isn’t an exaggeration. Most people will use procrastination as a way to protect themselves from being judged. It’s a temporary relief that helps avoid criticism while giving you the best excuse ever:

I could’ve done so much better if I had more time.

To avoid procrastination keep in mind these quick tips:

  1. You do have time, make the most of it.Let others see your full potential.

  2. Finish your WIP. It doesn’t have to be perfect but done.

  3. Embrace criticism, the worst that could happen is that you might feel a little embarrassed

3. Let the unconscious mind work

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This is not mumbo-jumbo, learning to use your unconscious mind will give your writing room to breathe.

This is something that differentiates great writers from somewhat-good writers. It’s what happens between the writing and the rewriting. The refreshing of your mental-caché.

The unconscious mind is about letting your own ideas sink in. An important part in the process of outlining or understanding your story.

For example: when I’m rehearsing for an acting role: I read a lot about the character and I let it sink. Then I go take a walk, a nap, I interact with other people. This is the moment the character and the story would begin to grow in me.

The unconscious mind is a concept that has also been tackled by renowned authors. In his book “The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV” David Corbett talks about how characters can emerge from the unconscious. A habit that takes time, practice and lots of introspection. But that can also give birth to powerful and archetypical characters with whom it’s easy to sympathize on a deep and emotional level.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Psychology has a handful of interesting studies for writers that are worth peeking at. But the overall advice I could give you as a psychologist is to know yourself as a writer and human being.

Or, in David Corbett words:

“Comprehending your characters (and story) begins with an honest, unflinching understanding of yourself”

Ready to start using these tips? Want to know more about psychology and writing? Feel free to leave a comment below if it helped you.

Also, share with your friends!

and keep writing!

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Steph Hynds Reply

    Nice post! I especially like what you said about using the unconscious mind. When I’m stuck, I engage in some mindless activity — walking, folding laundry, cleaning — and out of the blue, the solution comes to me. I wish I could learn to use the unconscious more fully. Thank you for the tips!

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