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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Creative Writers and Daydreaming by Sigmund Freud

In 'Creative Writers and Daydreaming', Freud's basic question is where does the creative writer draw his material from? And, how do they evoke emotions in us through their writing? To understand this, he tries to find an activity that comes close to that of creative writing. He finds this in child's play as even a child creates a world of his own. The child links his imagination to tangible objects in the world.

When we grow up, this 'play' has to stop and so we have to give up pleasure. This, according to Freud is very hard to do once we have experienced pleasure. Therefore, as a substitute to playing, we indulge in fantasizing or daydreaming. Unlike the child however, the adult is ashamed of his fantasies and hides them from everyone.

To explain this further, Freud puts down few important characteristics of fantasizing. The source of fantasies is unsatisfied wishes, which are fulfilled by means of these fantasies. There are two kinds of fantasies, (1) ambiguous wishes that "elevate the subject's personality", and (2) erotic fantasies. For men, ambitious wishes are predominant while for women, it is erotic ones. He goes on to say that daydreams, just like dreams at night, function as wish fulfilment. The difference is that the repressed wishes expressed in night dreams are desires that we are ashamed of and so, conceal them from even ourselves.

Freud now connects this act to daydreaming with the creative process. He calls the creative writer, "dreamer in broad daylight". He focuses his discussion on authors of popular novels and romances rather than classics. He says that one common feature of all these works in the central character or hero. The hero's journey becomes the journey of the ego of the writers as well as readers. From here, he goes on to suggest, that a piece of creative writing (like daydreams), is a substitute for child's play.

Next, Freud talks of those writers who get their material from folk tales and myths. In such cases, too, the author expresses himself in the choice of material and in the subtle changes he introduces. Even if he does not change the myth, these myths themselves might reflection of the collective fantasies of entire nations.

Finally, he attempts to answer the second question, which is how the creative writers evoke emotions in us. He says that a daydreamer conceals his fantasies from others because he is ashamed of them. Even if he did, others would be repelled by them. So, he wonders why is it that we experience so much pleasure from the creative writer's presentation of his fantasies. He says that we can only make a guess about how this actually happens. He proposes two techniques. Firstly, he softens and disguises the character, and secondly, he couches the text with literary and aesthetic qualities.

Psychoanalysis can be applied to study literature in three ways:

1. Studying the author to understand the text

2. Studying the text to understand the readers and time period

3. Studying the author through the text (a reflection of his childhood)