You wouldn’t think a Masters in Creative Writing would lead you to the conclusion that you’re schizophrenic.
Or at least, not immediately.
You’d want to work up to that after two years of batting the idea back and forth, at the very least.
In fact, it’s widely accepted that all writers have a dual personality – their actual selves and their writing selves.
More commonly, the division is made between their creative mind and their analytical mind.
Your Creative Mind
Your creative mind is what is doing the hard part when you’re writing.
Your creative mind is the one that taps you as you’re nodding off with that great story idea.
Your creative mind finds inspiration in that song, that movie you watched last night or the way the light falls through the window.
Your creative mind is what regurgitates all of those clichés (sweaty palms, wide eyes, swaying hips.)
Your creative mind ploughs on with the story, even when it isn’t quite sure where the story is going or who’s going to get it there.
Think of your creative mind like Tinkerbell. The more you believe in your creative mind, the more real it becomes. You have to trust your creativity and give it free reign, let it run wild and free across the page until your story is done and you’re left staring at a document wondering what the hell happened.*
*I realise I’ve made it sound as though your creative mind is some ghost in the machine that’ll take hold of your typing fingers and BAM! STORY! Sadly for most of us, this won’t be true, but for the brevity of blogs I’ve left out all the time spent overcoming writer’s block.
Your Analytical Mind
Your analytical mind is what wants you to re-read everything you’ve ever written and pick it apart with a fine tooth comb.
Your analytical mind deletes things it probably shouldn’t delete.
Your analytical mind agonizes over whether to call a character Sally or Sandra.
Your analytical mind wonders whether this book will be marketable to the masses by the time you actually get around to finishing it, panics that it won’t and tells you to quit while you’re ahead.
Your analytical mind is the one that wonders whether you shouldn’t have bothered in the first place (or perhaps I’m convoluting it with anxiety now?)
How To Make Sure Your Analytical Mind Doesn’t Murder Your Creative Mind
Think of your creative mind as The Author and your analytical mind as The Editor.
When the task at hand is writing your book, you need to hand over to The Author (aka your creative mind.)
You should just write and not worry about how it sounds.
Ignore all of the things they tell you (Show! Don’t tell! / Structure is key! / Don’t head jump!) and just write.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes.
It doesn’t matter if Cassie starts as Carrie and then becomes Cazzie. This can all be sorted out when you hand over the cruel nitpicker that is The Editor.
So when it’s The Author’s turn in the driver’s seat, milk that creative mind for all it’s worth. Describe everything – every chair, every blade of grass, every wisp of hair (the rhyme happened by accident, I promise.)
Once the book is done and you sit back and can see a full story, then and only then do you hand over to The Editor.
The Editor’s job is to read this from a reader’s perspective. Is this character believable? Do I know what they look like? Do I know how they’ll react in different situations? Is this story gripping? Do I need this dialogue?
All of these questions are useful and necessary when you’re in the editing phase of your work – but not a second before. The moment you start to analyse every word, creativity starts to wilt, and then die – because you’ve stopped believing in Tinkerbell.
So here’s how to stay sane, despite these two warring personalities inside your brain.
Let your Creative Mind write until the story is done.
Let your Analytical Mind edit until the story is ready.
5 Replies to “Why All Writers Have Two Personalities”
Love this Sophie. It’s really so key to recognize that these two separate personalities serve their purpose in the process if writing. There is a definable hierarchy however, because without the creative mind in the first instance, the editor’s job would be redundant. A story can exist whether or not it is edited. Polishing too hard can change the look and feel of both the original content and intent.
Thanks Lorna! Definitely – the Editor wants to jump in way too early, but actually the quicker you start editing, the less likely you’ll have something completed in the first place. I know what you mean about it being a different beast to how it began, often the ideas I come up with warp so much that by the time I’ve started writing, it’s a completely different book to the original conception.
Thanks for sharing. I think the last two lines in summary says it all.