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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Psychology: The Emotional Experience of Writing

I was once interviewed by a trade magazine reporter for an article relating to my book, Through Children’s Minds: The Marketing and Creation of Children’s Products. She has a Ph.D. in art history, writes long, engaging restaurant reviews, and has begun writing fiction. We had several phone conversations that became personal and I revealed that I sometimes become so involved in what I am writing that I cry. She said that she envied me for this level of involvement though I had thought that it occurred with all fiction writers.

A famous painter once said that all painters paint themselves and I think that this explains writers too. I writhed when reading Stephen King’s description of his childhood suffering in his book, On Writing. Did this motivate him to write his frightening stories?

I readily understand why some of even my nonfiction stories arouse my emotions since they would for most people.

A mother waits in the Emergency Room while her toddler lay dying after a fall at the babysitter’s home.

A girl, having overcome appalling problems, was stopped from graduating high school because she hadn’t submitted an essay. Her mother lost her voice battling the decision all the way from the teacher through the Superintendent of Schools and her depressed, crying daughter returned home. Finally, it was decided that the girl could graduate if she made up the assignment. The girl wrote all weekend, handed in the essay on Monday, and ran to the school’s gym where the graduation ceremony was being practiced. When the students saw her, knowing of her painful life, they stopped what they were doing and chanted her name and teachers began crying. My eyes teared when the girl’s mother told me this story, as they did when I wrote it and even now when I think of it.

The writing that most arouses me seems to be that in which a protagonist battles seemingly unbeatable odds and wins. Sometimes, as occurs in the most successful movies and occasionally in life, heroes and long shots do win big.

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