top of page

On Creative Writing and Daydreaming

I just finished Freud's On Creative Writing and Daydreaming, as well as a handful of essays analysing his analysis.

Freud's main focus is on phantasy (spelled with ph, not f, in psychological discussions) and its role in development. A child spends most time imagining his own world, and has no shame or desire to hide what he's doing. Alternatively, daydreaming and play isn't something most adults are willing to share.

I've been reading a lot recently about play, how purposely devoting time to nonproductive activities is vital to mental health in adults. I was glad to see that Freud viewed novelists and poets as people who were able to overcome those stigmas, rather than some sick sexual deviants (though, of course, the topic does make an appearance).

Though it was mentioned more as an aside, what stuck with me was the categorisation of "real literature." The literary world isn't immune to gatekeeping; any group loves to define what counts as art worth admiration. As someone who's recently read a lot of Agatha Christie, I don't like the feeling of reading "junk food books." And, yes, I'm being hypocritical: I used to roll my eyes when I saw a romance novel update on Goodreads, or a friend who only read YA. There's something instinctual about believing your tastes are the correct ones.

But the model presented by Freud, and expanded by some of his analysers: literature that seeks truth, and literature that hides from it.

Think exploration vs escapism. Picking up an Agatha Christie book is great for forgetting about work and errands for a few hours, but I don't really "learn" anything from it like I would from, say, a realism novel. Christie may shed some light on human nature, but her main goal is to entertain, whereas many classical and modern writers' aim is to provide a clearer view of those words that so often mean nothing: the soul, society, culture, etc.

Doesn't mean one's better than the other. Sometimes you need truth, other times you need to ignore it for awhile. I'll always love Dostoyevsky, and though I'd argue that he had more skill than James Patterson, they're not aiming for the same thing. Let's not pretend that they are. Apples and oranges, and all that.

Thanks for subscribing

bottom of page