Thank you for visiting this blog site. It's mainly writing-related posts including thoughts, tips, info and psychological aspects of writing. If you felt like following, well that would be great.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Psychologist Lurks Within the Writer's Mind

A degree in psychology usually takes three years; however, I believe that the committed writer quickly gets the basics.

Fiction writers, especially, are inveterate people watchers. What's she thinking? Why's he doing that? Those lads think they look hard. I bet those two have had a row. They're both besotted with the baby. He favours the older child over the younger. And so on. This sort of 'imaginative inquisitiveness' must be important to those who construct novels or stories. On the surface it seems just plain nosy, but we extrapolate to the why, how, who, what happened, what's next set of questions. This allows the reader to see into the minds of the characters, and edges them into making predictions for the rest of the writing. My guess is that this is especially important to crime writers, but it's somewhere in every writer's mind.

Non-fiction writers perhaps use a different set of psychology strands. Taking magazine articles, the writer works out what kind of people read a particular mag, what their interests are, what they are likely to enjoy reading about, and how to reflect their characteristics back at them to engage and keep their attention.

I've been thinking about this partly as a (former) psychologist and (current sometime) writer, and also having returned from a week at a Croatian hotel where nearly one third of guests were British, and almost all the rest were Japanese. People's approach to buffet meals seemed to be closely related to ethnicity - what time they turned up, how they approached the laid out food, what they chose, how quickly they ate, whether they chatted between mouthfuls. Then there was 'the man who studied everyone' (yes, yes, I know), the self-consciously glamorous girls, the couple who never spoke, the wife who did all the choosing, fetching and carrying for her man, the older blokes who chatted up the waitresses, those who always sat as close to the buffet as possible. The waitress probably thought of me as 'the woman who thinks she can speak a bit of Croatian'. All grist to the writer's mill, and endlessly fascinating.

So greeting to all writers/psychologists! For anyone not Greek-alphabet-minded, the sign at the top is meant to be the Greek letter psi, the logo used for psychology. And mine is Pi.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Writers and unpaid publication

This is such a thorny issue. Probably like most writers, I've been on both sides of the line.

My first published work was a regular pop music column in The Royston Crow, which I started at age about thirteen. It was no hardship - I'd always been a creative writer, and worked on Saturdays in my parents' electrical/record/pram/bike shop. Placed in sole charge of ordering, displaying and selling all the records, too - 45s, EPs and LPs. (Just post the 78rpm era.) Really thrilling at that age - the envy of my pop-mad fans. And I got hold of a press card so that I met Adam Faith, Cliff, Billy Fury and all the rest to interview for the paper. It enabled me to chat with Karl Denver while he changed after his act, so I got to see his underpants. *** Highlight *** And I was invited to accompany Shane Fenton and the Fentones to a restaurant - and they paid.

I'd asked for the column, and the editor said he couldn't pay me. (Even then.) But still, occasionally I would nip into the office, ask to see him, and beg a fee. The result was usually a fiver - my first earnings from writing.

For many years after that, everything published - mainly non-fiction - was for a suitable fee. After a lapse, I returned to writing, and was aghast at the minimal fees offered. £40 for a two-page article with photos, for example. Then, reader, I stooped. Having not made much effort with short stories since a couple in national magazines, I submitted one to a more local mag who accepted on a non-paid basis. Had a go at asking for a token fee, but told 'I love an optimist'!

The arguments against unpaid work are sound. Like internships, some publications know they can get hold of reasonable work without having to pay for it, and this encourages the work-for-nothing ethos. Then the paying markets for writers might start to shrink. Also, of course, it can devalue our work and make it seem unworthy.

However, on balance I wouldn't decry the idea. A writer starting out will benefit from something for the CV - no need to mention it's unpaid. Being published under whatever terms is a great boost to confidence, too. And it does mean that the publication is more likely to survive. Some new magazines say they can't pay initially, but will once they take off - although we'd need to monitor to see if they keep their word. Once a writer is established, there should be no need to work for nothing, which is great. But it's a long road and there are various pathways to writing glory. Bring on the glory!