Why Psychology in Writing?

Being a psychologist and being a writer are not that different.  When I refer to being a psychologist or a writer, I’m talking about the essence of the person not the product that they deliver.  Both individuals use themselves as tools, the psychologist to understand

Line art representation of a Quill

Line art representation of a Quill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

others and the writer to create.  For these individuals the key to understanding others and creation begins with the understanding of the self.  The psychologist and writer both must know the why of themselves—Why am I doing this? Why am I reacting this way? What am I hoping to happen?  How can I make that happen?  The answers to these questions come from an understanding of the self and making manifest what may be hidden in an unexamined life.  It is from self-knowledge that the psychologist and the writer can get out of their own way to get deeper into the external process of working with others.

Once psychologists or writers understand themselves, then they can truly begin to understand others.  For the writer this means a deeper understanding of characters; the goal of the writer is not to just manifesting aspects of self onto the page, instead the writer should allow the characters to have their own way of being.  It is freeing for characters to not be held down or back by their creator’s fears, hopes, insecurities, but to be able to have their own personhood that comes from the writer being able to separate them from her/his self.  This leads the writer to infuse greater intentionality in the characters.  As the writer moves to understands characters’ motivation more than their own the creator is more equipped to direct.  Through the understanding of self, the mystery of characters is removed allowing them to do things that were not possible when they were constrained by the writer’s unexplored psyche.

This freedom from ourselves as writers allows us more control over not just our characters, but also the worlds and stories we create.  We can move from being selfish, “I’m writing this because I like it”, to “I’m writing this because I believe others will like it”.  We develop the ability to step outside of ourselves and develop empathy with our readers.  At the end of the day, if the goal is to be published, the writing isn’t just for us as much as we’d like to believe it is, it is for others.  And when we know ourselves well enough that we can transcend ourselves, we become much more capable of connecting with others.  The stories that rise above the writer are the stories that carry on and persevere.

I hope that the words I share about understanding the self, others, and the characters we write about will help you along on your journey.


W.T. Jowett


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