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Emily S. Fine is a 2016 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee

Theodore Ellenhorn, PhD, Committee Chair
Barbara Belcher-Timme, PsyD, Committee Member
Daniel Greif, PsyD, Committee Member

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2016

Abstract

Authors of fiction often describe writing as a psychologically meaningful and emotionally charged process. While ample research has provided evidence for the mental and physical health benefits of writing (e.g., Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999), few studies have methodically examined the inner life of the fiction writer. This study explored two primary questions: (a) Why do authors write? and (b) How does the act of writing affect them in turn? This study employed Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as a guiding methodology. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five authors of fiction, then transcribed and analyzed to generate a rich interpretative account. The motivations for writing fiction were found to be complex and multifaceted and the impact often subtle, but profound. Authors both forget and find themselves in the task of writing. They temporarily leave behind their everyday lives as they become absorbed in the task of writing and transported into the worlds of their characters. Simultaneously, the author can access, utilize, and play with psychological and affective material. The authors described the act of entering into and conveying their characters’ experiences as allowing them to name and make sense of their own experiences, gain greater understanding and empathy for others, and explore their own questions, identities, and beliefs. At times it also helps them gain greater acceptance and decreased sensitivity to more challenging emotions, memories, and relationships. However, authors do not usually write to consciously gain these benefits. They write because they are writers, because they love their characters, and because they love story.

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Emily S. Fine

ORCID Scholar ID# : orcid.org/0000-0003-3317-2346

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