Hypnosis for Writers

by Bryan M. Knight, MSW, PhD.

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Hypnosis can help writers to:

Overcome writer's block
Generate ideas
Improve concentration
End procrastination
Increase motivation
Enrich characterization
Deal with rejection
Overcome Writer's Block

The writer stares helplessly at a blank sheet of paper, or at the blind eye of a computer. Writer's Block is about fear. Fear of failure or fear of success. Either is paralysing. Neither is necessarily conscious. But both failure and success are excused if the writer refrains from committing words to paper or screen. (The writer has not really "failed" because the work is not finished; he or she has postponed success because there's nothing to judge).

Hypnosis can be used either in advance of a Block or during one. Hypnosis can conquer the Block in several ways:

by getting to the root cause
by post-hypnotic suggestion
by imaginative destruction.

In hypnosis, the writer can delve into his or her subconscious to uncover the underlying reason(s) for the Block. These are legion. Typical would be a fear of failing like the writer's father failed, or conversely, fear of succeeding because this would signify outstripping the father. Another deep cause could be the fear of rejection (see below). There might even have been a long-forgotten traumatic incident of a teacher scoffing at the writer when he or she was a child, and saying something like, "You're hopeless, Jimmy, you'll never learn how to write properly." Yet another cause could be the fear of being judged.

Getting to the cause via hypnosis is best done with the aid of a competent hypnotherapist. The therapist will then help the writer deal with that cause in a constructive way.

With or without delving into the cause, post-hypnotic suggestions are an ideal way to program oneself to write. These are simply positive suggestions the writer gives to herself while in hypnosis. (How to do this is explained in clear detail in my book Health and Happiness with Hypnosis.)

This would be an ideal way to implement the time-management ideas I elaborated in my Success Schedule for Writers (published in the Canadian Writer's Guide).

Conceiving of the Block as an object or symbol of some kind, and then destroying it while the writer is relaxed in hypnosis, is yet another way to overcome Writer's Block.

Generate Ideas

The well-worn advice to "sleep on it", when you are confronted with a tough problem, really means "prime your subconscious." And so it is with hypnosis. Instead of drifting off to sleep, you drift into hypnosis. You could have asked your subconscious for ideas, or just let yourself flow with whatever it pops into your conscious mind.

Ideas for nonfiction books or articles or for fictional plots and subplots -- in fact, for anything to do with writing -- can also be discovered by using the House of Ideas or the Wise Author in the Forest imagery.

The House of Ideas is an imaginary house which you explore while in hypnosis. You may do this on your own, or with the guidance of a hypnotherapist. What's inside the House is up to you. For instance, you could begin with a series of doors on which appear the names of characters in your novel, or you might imagine meeting up with a historian who is going to guide you into various epochs of the House, for that new history text you're writing. Or perhaps there are key documents hidden in the House which you uncover so as to make your mystery novel more complex. The possibilities are endless.

The Wise Author in the Forest is an adaptation of a popular hypnotherapy technique. Briefly, you imagine yourself in a safe, friendly forest where, in a beautiful clearing, you meet up with The Wise Author. You then ask whatever questions you wish, including a request for ideas.

Post-hypnotic suggestion can also be used to generate ideas. The most straight-forward way to do this would be to give your subconscious instruction and permission to allow ideas to pop up into your conscious mind as needed. You could also add a suggestion that ideas will come to you from a more acute awareness of your environment.

Another way, this time with "eyes-open" hypnosis, is to give yourself the "idea-creation" suggestion and then relax into hypnosis as you watch the Psychovisual Therapy video "Serenity."

Improve Concentration

Most of us enter a hypnotic state when we write. This applies to nonfiction writers but especially to authors of fiction. We want our readers to suspend disbelief, to enter our make-believe worlds and experience them as real as they were to us when we created them. And when we wrote, it was with concentration. Our attention was focused, our critical mind was on hold, our imagination engaged. This is hypnosis. So the more we formally practice going into such a trance, the more we develop our capacity to concentrate. Post-hypnotic suggestions and imagining ourselves (while in hypnosis) relaxed in concentration, can also be helpful.

End Procrastination

The hypnotic approach to ending procrastination is similar to that for conquering Writer's Block: a combination of rooting out the cause and positive post-hypnotic suggestions. Just as the knowledgeable hypnotherapist talks about "discomfort" rather than "pain", you would feed yourself images and words about "doing it now", "writing immediately", "enjoying the process of writing". You would not give yourself suggestions which include the actual word "procrastination." The point is to avoid negative reinforcement.

An ideal aid to bucking procrastination is the Psychovisual Therapy video "Positivity", which puts you into a light hypnotic trance and subliminally offers your subconscious mind encouraging messages about letting go of negativity and taking positive action.

Increase Motivation

Writers need motivation to write, and to sell their writing. Hypnosis can build your motivation through similar ways to those mentioned above in answer to other challenges.

Visualization in hypnosis is one of the most powerful ways to build motivation. You enter hypnosis (either with direction from a hypnotherapist, or on your own) and visualise your goal. For one writer this would be her finished book so she imagines the cover, complete with title and her name emblazoned thereon. Another writer's goal may be fame. Thus he might visualize himself on a book tour, being interviewed on television. Yet another writer's goal might be to become rich, so she would use her session of hypnosis to imagine a stack of royalties.

Enrich Characterization

Fiction writers go into trance when entering into their characters. This is the common experience often described as "the story wrote itself", or that "the characters say and do things which I hadn't thought of."

Relaxing into hypnosis enables you to imagine details of your character's appearance, speech and actions.

One way to use hypnosis for character development is to let yourself drift into hypnosis while becoming "absorbed" in the fictional mind of your creation. You could write the experience immediately after the hypnotic session or, if you choose to talk during the hypnosis, you could tape-record the character's activities for later transcription.

Deal with Rejection

Almost every writer has to face rejection. That marvellous memoir is returned with a curt refusal, or no note at all; that book outline you slaved over is turned down by a score of publishers; that novel in which you bared your soul sells only 20 copies. How can hypnosis help you deal with such hurt? By enabling you to continue writing.

As long as you are churning out more articles, more books, more essays, any single rejection has less power to hurt. And hypnosis helps you to generate ideas, improve concentration, end procrastination, increase motivation, and enrich characterization. It creates all those positive ions!

Incidentally, this article was written through the use of several of the hypnotic techniques mentioned within it. Additionally, I made use of the hypnagogic state just before falling asleep and just after awakening mornings, to prime myself with positive suggestions and images about writing worthwhile content.

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References:

Dowd, E. Thomas, and Healy, James M. (Eds), Case Studies in Hypnotherapy New York: The Guilford Press.

Eisen, Marlene R., and Fromm, Erika. (1983). The Clinical Use off Self-Hypnosis in Hypnotherapy: Tapping the Functions of Imagery and Adaptive Regression, The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, XXX1, 243-255.

Hammond, D. Corydon (1990). Handbook of Hypnotic Suggestions and Metaphors. New York: W.W. Norton & Co

Knight, Bryan M. (1989). Therapeutic Hypnosis for Social Workers,, Intervention, 83, 64-69.

Lankton, Stephen R. and Lankton, Carol H. (1983). The Answer Within: A Clinical Framework of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel..

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Dr Bryan Knight, author of Health and Happiness with Hypnosis, is Professional Book Review Moderator for Self-Help & Psychology magazine. He is a social worker in private psychotherapy practice in Montreal, Canada. His web site: http://www.microtec.net/~drknight/index.shtml

Bryan M. Knight, MSW, PhD Author, "Health & Happiness with Hypnosis"

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