Reading is one of the great pleasures of life, Certainly. A few days ago, we echoed our particular ranking with 50 must-read books that must be read once in a lifetime, and today we’re coming back for more, albeit from a different perspective.
Writing and psychology, very much in common
We communicate constantly in writing; they are part of our lives and part of our cultural heritage. We have all felt at some point the need to write our thoughts or our stories, and it is that writing can become therapeutic.
Maybe we are not literary geniuses like Gabriel Garcia Marquez O William ShakespeareBut the demand for paper and pen (or the keyboard for digital natives) is often presented to us. However, putting the ideas and thoughts that cross our minds to paper can be a tricky business, and if not, ask writers and their dreaded “blank page syndrome”.
Steven Pinker brings us the psychological keys to writing better
One of the most renowned psychologists today, Steven Pinker, linguist and cognitive psychologist at Harvard University, has some answers to help us advance in the art of writing.
In his book The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, published in 2014, Pinker advises us and offers us a complete guide for those of us who wish to progress as writers..
In addition, his suggestions and teachings are based on a wealth of scientific research in the field of neuroscience and cognitive psychology: Pinker examines the results of our brain’s functioning system and teaches us to improve our ability to write. The author offers a series of techniques and strategies that aim to understand how our mind works so that we know how to get the most out of it, in this case to be more creative and efficient when writing.
The 6 psychological tips for writers
Below, we summarize the six points on which Steven Pinker’s teachings are based. If you want to be a writer and improve your stories, this can help.
1. Put yourself in the reader’s skin (and mind)
Readers don’t know what you know. It seems like a very obvious point, but it’s not so much. If there are people who do not fully understand what you are trying to convey through your texts, the problem is not yours, but yours. I am sorry.
The psychological reason for this writing failure is that our brains tend to take a lot of knowledge, data, and arguments for granted because you and you know them, but do your readers know them as well as you do? Probably not, and it’s a common problem that needs to be approached, with self-criticism and reflection.
Steven Pinker calls this error the “curse of knowledge”, and it is the inability of many writers to understand that others don’t know what they know. This leads to unclear texts, where things are taken for granted that dislodge the reader. In her book, Pinker states that the best way to avoid falling into this error (which by the way is one of the most common according to editors) is to send a draft of the text to someone with no specific knowledge, and to ask him if he understands everything or not.
2. Use a direct style, with pictures and conversations
Cognitive psychology keeps repeating it more than 30% of our brains have functions associated with vision. Pinker also points out that there is a lot of scientific evidence that shows that readers understand and are able to remember more elements of the text that have to do with language that evokes images.
In addition, it is convenient to use a conversational style and to conceive of the reader as a known person: it will make them feel that they are part of the story and the inner world of the writer. However, says Pinker, writing with a style focused on the impression of the reader has the opposite effect, and the reader may feel overwhelmed and notice a great distance from what the author wants to convey.
In fact, research has found that many students deliberately used very complex vocabulary to appear smarter. In fact, the simplest texts at the lexical level coincided with writers of higher intelligence.
The trick to finding a good reader-writer rapport, according to Pinker, is to imagine that as a writer you are in conversation with someone who has a similar cultural level to yours, but who has less knowledge you in the field. you’re talking about. This way, you can guide the reader and introduce them to things that you already know but not yet.
3. Put the reader in context
You have to tell the reader what the purpose of the text is, why you are telling them something, what they are going to get out of it.. Research has reported that readers who know the context early on in reading are better able to fully understand the text.
Pinker himself emphasizes this point, noting that readers need to know the context so that they can read between the lines and relate all concepts and arguments more intuitively. This means that the reader is situated in the text based on their previous knowledge, which helps them to better understand what they are reading. In fact, if you cannot find any reference to contextualize, the reader will be unable to fully understand the lines in front of him, it will be a cursory reading.
The advice is clear: as authors we will have to locate the reader, show what the subject of the text is and what we want to explain.. While some writers refuse to do this so as not to remove the suspense and mystery from the text, the truth is that it makes a lot more sense to win the reader over from the start and keep their attention and interest throughout. reading. does not trust that, without being able to contextualize, he will manage to finish only the first paragraph.
4. Creativity (but common sense) while respecting the rules
By this we don’t mean that we don’t have to follow the rules of spelling and grammar, but when we write we also have to leave some room for creativity and improvisation. The dictionary is not a sacred book, argues Pinker. Additionally, dictionary editors are tasked with capturing trends and uses of certain terms in each new edition, and this can only be done by being connected to society, the engine that gives meaning to the language.
Of course: you have to know the rules well to be able to break them from time to time with a good dose of creativity. Creativity, of course, should be a sign of quality, not an opportunity to show that we want to “prepare”. If you do not know the rules of writing a language inside out, it is better not to try to reinvent the wheel and to stick to the orthodox canons in your texts. There will already be time to innovate, later.
5. Never stop reading
This and other writing guides are interesting and valuable tools, however. if you want to improve yourself as a writer you have to read a lot day by day.
Pinker’s vision is very clear: to be a great writer, you have to immerse yourself in various books and texts, trying to learn new languages, literary resources, new terms and phrases made with those to grow up. as a thinker and, for both. as a writer.
It’s simple: continuing to learn and research is one of the keys to expanding your mental horizons and, therefore, your writing skills.
6. Read the texts carefully and patiently.
To be an excellent writer, it is not recommended to try to write beautiful texts first, against the clock. In fact, it is a skill that few, very few, master. In reality, it is much better that you devote a lot of care and time to revising and reconstructing your texts.
Steven Pinker believes that criticism is one of the keys to good writers. “Very few writers are demanding enough to grasp the exact words that best explain what they want. transmit. Less is more. This is achieved with the ability to know how to revise and refine every paragraph, every sentence. When we write, we need to revisit and rephrase to make the message clear and reach the reader appropriately, ”argues Pinker.
One last thought
The ability to communicate through texts and books is something that can be learned. We just need to practice and put our talents into action.
These strategies and techniques for improving writing that Steven Pinker gave us can help us empathize with our readers and get our point across in the best possible way. To write!