mind of a writer, part 3


Before you say it, don’t worry. I’m not going to get as philosophical as I did last week. A little philosophical? Well, yeah. Just not as deep as last week.

Several months ago, I came across the following article. Bare minimum it’s interesting, though I think there’s more to it than that alone. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Why “Psychological Androgyny” Is Essential for Creativity
Brain Pickings  |  Maria Popova

Despite the immense canon of research on creativity — including its four stages, the cognitive science of the ideal creative routine, the role of memory, and the relationship between creativity and mental illness — very little has focused on one of life’s few givens that equally few of us can escape: gender and the genderedness of the mind.

Read more…

For those of you too lazy to click through (shame on you!), the article makes one simple but poignant observation: those of us with creative minds tend to possess the ability to think across gender lines. Give that idea even passing thought and you’ll quickly see how much sense it makes. There is no way a male writer, for example, could write an even moderately convincing female characters unless he can, to some degree, think like a girl. And, of course, the inverse is also true.

I first considered this, myself, when I read The Sea, The Sea by the epically great Iris Murdoch. Her lead character and narrator, Charles Arrowby, is a man. In fairness, Charles does have a sensitive side that could roughly be described as ‘feminine’, but he also has plenty of decidedly male traits, at least according to our normative gender roles and expectations. (Don’t get me started on that. For the most part, I think our gender roles/expectations/limitations are stupid. I’ll stop there.) The point is, Murdoch was able to give voice and meaning to her character, even across the great gender divide, and that wasn’t the only time she did so.

Perhaps the divide is not as great as we think it is. At least not for writers.

Instead of urging you to embrace this concept, I’m curious as to what you think. Do you find that you’re able to access the minds of characters who don’t share your gender identity? If so, what is that experience like for you? Are you comfortable with it? Does it freak you out? Have you even tried? Or is it something you flow in and out of seamlessly without giving it much thought?

Please chime in below in the comments.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

2 Responses to mind of a writer, part 3

  1. One reason I love George R. R. Martin. He writes women, and girls, so very well.

    I’ve occasionally found it difficult to write men. Usually only if I am trying to write a guy I would like. Pigs and brutes are pretty easy. Why is that!?

    Liked by 1 person

    • dex says:

      Good question! In general, I think bad guys are much easier to write. It’s always easier to get inside the head of a villain…but good people are complex!


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