Career Transitions

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Want to Be a Writer? How Psychology Today Can Help

The cure for any writer's ailment can be found in Psychology Today blogs.

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” --F. Scott Fitzgerald

Why do you write? Or better yet, why do you want to write? Is it because, as Fitzgerald said, you have something to say? Or do you write to discover yourself, or gain new insight and clarity about a subject? Are you writing to become a famous writer? Or are you simply required to write as part of your job? Or maybe even to find a job? 

Whatever your motivation (and we’ll deal in a minute with the lack of that…), if you want to start or improve your writing you need look no further than Psychology Today’s blog posts. One wouldn’t necessarily expect to find great writing advice in a blog about psychology— in fact, if you look at Psychology Today's index of blogs you won't find a category called "writing"—but over the years I have found my fellow bloggers on Psychology Today to be the source of invaluable insights, tips, knowledge, and much-needed motivation to write. 

(Disclaimer #1: This post is one of those top-of-the-head-wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-I-could-pull-this-together? ideas. My ever patient and supportive editor at Psychology Today had nothing to do with this topic. In other words, I am totally responsible for the topic and the content—no one at Psych Today asked me to write this.)

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(Disclaimer #2: This list is not meant to be exhaustive—it consists of the PT bloggers and posts which I have enjoyed reading. I know I have forgotten important people and I would encourage my fellow PT bloggers to please post comments promoting your posts or blogs.)

So let's get started...

Reading About Writing

As a writer, I love to read.  And mostly I love to read about writing.  In fact, I probably do a lot more reading and thinking about writing than actually writing.  And I know I’m not alone.

Gretchen Rubin shares my addiction and clearly she broke into my house and looked at my bookshelf before she wrote her wonderful post, “Want to Read About Writing?”  Gretchen writes a lot about writing in her blog, The Happiness Project, so consider bookmarking or subscribing.

Naveed Saleh likewise published a post on his six great books on writing, and they are different from Rubin’s.  Check it out for more ideas.

From Procrastination to Burnout: Getting Unstuck

What do you do if you want to write but just can’t get your act together? 

Check out Gina Barreca’s post called “Can Anything Make You Write?” Gina writes a lot about the creative process and writing, so you might want to bookmark or subscribe to her blog.

And I like Pamela Cytrynbaum’s post called “Minding My Mind: Noticing Distraction Makes You Productive.” I like her list of all the things you can do to not write.  Most involve checking mail, returning calls and taking the dog out.  Proof that we’re probably not doing more important things when we say we don’t have time to write. (Although putting the dog out is always a good idea.)

Susan Perry’s aptly titled post, "Writing When You Don’t Feel Like It", pretty much sums up a common writer problem: we all want to write-- we just don’t want to write right now.  What’s that old phrase? "I hate to write, but love having written."

Carolyn Kaufman’s post “Writer’s Block and Burnout: Getting Unstuck” features an interview with Emmy-award winning writer Gene Perret and his advice on getting unstuck. Carolyn writes so much about writing that you might want to bookmark or subscribe to her blog.

While not specifically about writing, Bill Knaus’ post “Do You Have a Secret Wish That You Put Off Experiencing?” offers a helpful 9-step process for beating procrastination.  Because he also writes about careers, Bill Knaus is one of my favorite bloggers and his blog, Sense and Sensibility, is always full of great advice.  Check it out.

My favorite writer for getting unstuck is Steven Pressfield.  Now this is a little bit of a cheat because he doesn’t blog for Psychology Today, but several bloggers (including me) have written posts about his work, so check these out:

Personality, Cognitive Science and Writing

Jeffrey Davis has an interesting post called “A Ripe Time for Introverted Creatives” which provocatively presents the notion that it is the responsibility of introverts to write and promote their ideas—don’t keep them hidden away.

I like David Rock’s books and he also writes a lot of interesting posts under his topic of “Your Brain at Work.” Not all directly apply to writing, but his insights into how the brain works can provide great advice for improving your creativity, building motivation, and moving forward on tasks.  One of his posts, “How to Have More Insights” describes how the mind works on complex tasks and some of the characteristics needed to be more creative: quiet, inward-looking, slightly happy, and not effortful. 

The Habits and Process of Writing

Do you ever wonder how certain writers can be so prolific?

Katherine Ramsland’s post, “How Writers Find Rhythm: Effective Habits of 7 Authors” focuses on the habits famous writers (e.g. John Grisham, Stephen King, Truman Capote) developed to keep their writing moving forward.

Getting started and not sure how to proceed?  I really like the writing of Chris Guillebeau.  His post, "How to Write a Book" (with the compelling subtitle of “Is this your year of writing a book”) offers great basic advice about content, structure, and word quotas.

Toni Bernhard wrote a great post called "Top 10 Things I Learned from Writing Two Books" which has lots of valuable information for writers.

Do you feel like your writing is too laborious or slow?  Nathaniel Lambert’s post, “At the Speed of Write: 8 Ideas to Accelerate Your Writing” will kick-start your writing speed and efficiency with his organizational ideas.  As a visual thinker, I’m particularly drawn to his suggestion #2: Write to a Model.  I often draw maps or other visual images to organize my thoughts. 

I mentioned Susan Perry in an earlier section, and she writes excellent posts about the writing process.  In “25 Truths Learned While Writing a First Novel” she offers great tips about how to get started on your novel, warnings about not over-sharing in the beginning, how to keep going through the process and finding agents, etc.  In another post called, “6 Sensible Tips for Writing Creative Fiction”, she provides 6 random un-writing rules designed to free up the writer within. In fact, while we’re at it, just bookmark or subscribe to Susan Perry’s blog, Creating in Flow, because more often than not you will find wonderful ideas and tips to improve your writing and jumpstart your creativity.

Writing As a Way to Find a Job

Even I have been known to wade into the writing advice waters.  Some of my most popular posts are about writing as it relates to the job search.  If you’re job seeking here are three to check out: I think their titles are self-explanatory:

Writing to Heal/Memoir Writing

It’s not surprising that many blog posts would promote the value of writing as a path to self-discovery and healing.  And writing memoirs is often seen as a way of dealing with past demons while telling a compelling story.

Nancy Berns’ post “The Write Way to Heal” notes the value in writing down your feelings and experiences as a means to deal with grief and other emotions.

Randi Kreger usually writes about the complexities of borderline personality disorder, but due to frequent requests from her readers, she wrote a post about publishing your memoir which has lots of helpful information.  She also recommends the book, The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story.

In her thoughtful post, “Write Your Memoir”, Temma Ehrenfeld provides insightful and compassionate advice to the prospective memoirist.

Writing Addiction

And finally, has your writing habit has crossed over to addiction? Not to worry, Psych Today has help there as well.  Dr. Mark Griffiths has written a post about typomania and graphomania.

So there you have it.  Pretty much a goldmine for current and prospective writers.  Dig in-- and, again, PT Bloggers, apologies for anyone I have left out, and please feel free to add recommendations in the comments section.

©2014 Katharine S. Brooks. All rights reserved. Find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Credit:  Flickr Creative Commons.  Denise Krebs: Miss A Writes a Song.

Katharine Brooks, Ed.D., is the Executive Director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University. She is the author of You Majored in What?

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