Creative Writers and Daydreaming by Sigmund Freud

1. In 'Creative Writers and Daydreaming', Freud's basic question is where does the creative writer draw his material from? And, how do they evoke emotions in us through their writing?

2. To understand this, he tries to find an activity that comes close to that of creative
writing. He finds this in child's play as even a child creates a world of his own. The child links his imagination to tangible objects in the world.

3. When we grow up, this 'play' has to stop and so we have to give up pleasure. This,

according to Freud is very hard to do once we have experienced pleasure. Therefore, as a substitute to playing, we indulge in fantasizing or daydreaming. Unlike the child however, the adult is ashamed of his fantasies and hides them from everyone.

4. To explain this further, Freud puts down few important characteristics of fantasizing.
The source of fantasies is unsatisfied wishes, which are fulfilled by means of these fantasies. There are two kinds of fantasies, (1) ambiguous wishes that "elevate the subject's personality", and (2) erotic fantasies. For men, ambitious wishes are predominant while for women, it is erotic ones

5. He goes on to say that daydreams, just like dreams at night, function as wish

fulfilment. The difference is that the repressed wishes expressed in night dreams are desires that we are ashamed of and so, conceal them from even ourselves.

6. Freud now connects this act to daydreaming with the creative process. He calls the

creative writer, "dreamer in broad daylight". He focuses his discussion on authors of popular novels and romances rather than classics. He says that one common feature of all these works in the central character or hero. The hero's journey becomes the journey of the ego of the writers as well as readers. From here, he goes on to suggest, that a piece of creative writing (like daydreams), is a substitute for child's play.

7. Next, Freud talks of those writers who get their material from folk tales and myths. In
such cases, too, the author expresses himself in the choice of material and in the subtle changes he introduces. Even if he does not change the myth, these myths themselves might reflection of the collective fantasies of entire nations.

8. Finally, he attempts to answer the second question, which is how the creative writers

evoke emotions in us. He says that a daydreamer conceals his fantasies from others because he is ashamed of them. Even if he did, others would be repelled by them. So, he wonders why is it that we experience so much pleasure from the creative writer's presentation of his fantasies. He says that we can only make a guess about how this actually happens. He proposes two techniques. Firstly, he softens and disguises the character, and secondly, he couches the text with literary and aesthetic qualities.


1. The essay “Creative Writers and Daydreaming” suggests Freud's interest in the relationship between the author and his work. He sees a piece of creative writing as a continuation or substitute for the play of childhood 2. Freud also displays some aspects of his approach to the psychology of the reader. He suggests that the superficial pleasure of the work releases to deeper psychic pleasure and thereby liberate tensions. Thus, reading a text is knowing the psyche of the author. 3. Human beings have innumerable wishes and desires that can't be expressed freely due to social boundary, morality and other restrictions. The desires remain suppressed in our unconscious level of mind. Somehow, we try to express those desires and, according to Freud, there are three ways to do so- Sex, tongue slips and writing 4. Artists take help of writing to express his repressed desires of their childhood. He fantasizes and creates daydreams in place of playing games of their childhood. Through writing, the author expresses his desires. He remembers his golden past and wants to express the experience of the past in the present but can't do so. Therefore, he fantasizes and manifests his wishes in the form of art. 5. During childhood, a child plays with the mother's body but later on he identifies himself with fatherly figure, who comes in between mother and child , and the bodily unity with the mother is broken but the desire to play with mother's body remains throughout his life. Children forget their imagination by indulging themselves in games.

6. The writer has nostalgic towards the blissful past and the same romantic nostalgia becomes immense energy for creativity. So, there is some sort of similarity between children and writers. Both use their emotion and imagination seriously in game and writing. 7. According to Freud, wishes or desires are divided in to two parts as: Ambition: Ambition, which is found only in male not in female, is to uplift the personality. Erotic Wish: This wish is noticed in both- male and female. 8. Freud focuses Id that enforces erotic wish in a person. Id is an irrational and immoral force located at the unconscious level of human mind. It guides sexual desire. However, Idic factor is controlled by a stricter factor, which carries the principal of morality, value and humanitarian, called Superego. Superego does not let id express those desires. There is the conflict between Id and superego. But Ego, that

works with the reality principle stands as a mediator between id and superego. When unfulfilled desires are suppressed and pushed back in our unconscious, they manifest in the form of dream, tongue slips and literature. It is ego that helps the writers to express the repressed desires in a socially accepted form, not directly but in disguised form. 9. There are three phases upon which an artist undergoes while creating a work of art, they are: A. Condensation B. Latent C. Substitution E. Symbolic/ image stage manifest The first two are the psychological stages that are invisible located in mind but the third one is expressed in language 10. Author's mind possesses many desires so he selects the wanted desires but leaves out the unwanted desires. Those selected desires are combined in to single desire, and such process is called condensation 11. In substitution, those erotic and socially unaccepted desires are substituted by non-erotic ideas and are changed in to socially accepted one. In the symbolic stage, author takes help of symbols of pond, cave, ring and such other circular and concave symbols refer to ' vegina' whereas convex and vertical symbolizes like hill, stick, tree, finger etc, refer to ' Phallus'. While reading a text, the readers identify themselves with the writers and get the aesthetic pleasure.


In releasing unfulfilled desires, the poet uses' censors' but the meaning can be accomplished through analysis. He says, this reading is allegorical. The day dreaming and creative works both transforms the mental contents in to something where the latter is more creative and interesting. Freud also talks of two kinds of dreams: latent and manifest. Latent dream can only be thought of in our mental imagination, which cannot be seen but manifest dream is the revelation of the disguised one, which we perceive.


1. In Creative Writers and Day−Dreaming, Freud explains the sources of inspiration and imagination that creative writers use in writing their works like psychological novels.

2. He explains and compares the concepts of childhood games and the adult fantasy world (daydreaming), which are result from a desire to fulfill a wish which remains unfulfilled because they are never physically performed or achieved. The fantasy that arises through this unfulfilled wish has three time periods: past, present and future. 3. Freud relates a kid playing in his own imaginary world

to a creative writer creating his fictional world. He describes this fantasy along the process of substitution, in which the game becomes a daydream, which is at the same time parallel to the process of becoming an adult
4. the creative writer has the ability to pull out from

the reader those feelings and tensions that would stay in him otherwise by writing and sharing his own fantasies so that the reader realizes he is not the only one who has them.
5. He is able to liberate his deep fantasies and wishes

through this art form of writing without provoking repulsion in the reader. How does a creative writer do this? What is the source of his power and his imagination? The answer is his childhood's imaginary games.
6. Freud proceeds to compare a child to a creative writer.

every child at play behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or, rather, re−arranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him
7. Kids spend a lot of time and emotions in these games;

so do creative writers in creating their fictional written worlds. It would be wrong to think he does not take that world seriously
8. Both writer and child use their imagination to invent

characters, plots, and settings. Children take these games so seriously that they even forget about the real world that surrounds them. Freud states that kids are unable to differentiate fiction from reality. Writers, on the other hand, do have this ability.
9. The reason one creates an imaginary world is that some

things can only be enjoyed if imagined in one's mind. For many things which, if they were real, would give no enjoyment.
10. Kids like to play as if they were heroes that got hurt

but yet survived; if they really got hurt and had to go

through all the troubles they imagine, they would not enjoy it at all! Similarly, readers enjoy novels because they are a source of entertainment that liberates their mind letting them participate without being really involved.Therefore, a lot of times desires ought to remain just desires because if they were to become real they wouldn't live up to the idealized image that the person had of them
11. Freud brings up a clear paradox about the process kids

go through to become adults.
12. As people grow up, then, they cease to play, and they

seem to give up the yield of pleasure which they gained from playing
13. He will be ashamed and embarrassed by these games which

leave his fantasies so open to the rest of the society; therefore, he will develop a substitute way to enjoy them: daydreaming
14. Even though he loses the pleasure of play, he now finds

a replacement for it because humans do not like giving up pleasures once they have experienced them. The adult, therefore, loses his innocence.
15. The paradox here, however, is that the child will

actually become an adult and therefore fulfill his wish of being a grown up like the grown up in his games, but he will realize that it is not as great as he imagined it to be. On the other hand, the adult will not always have his wish fulfilled and that is why he will be later ashamed of his own daydreaming.
16. Fantasies are humans' most intimate possession; many

people even believe themselves to be the only ones having them. They differ from children games in their motives. A child's play is determined by certain wishes; for example, children imagine they are adults, so they imitate what they have learned from them or what they think adults do. On the other hand, adults' fantasies might or might not be what an adult is supposed to do in real life, and that is why they are scared of their fantasies being considered childish or not permissible (like an erotic fantasy.)
17. we see another paradox, and that's the one brought by

the fact that adults want the pleasures of children without the childishness. Therefore, humans spend both, their childhood and adulthood, wishing they were in the

other one, with the difference that adults are ashamed of accepting it

18. A key component of fantasies is time. There are
three time periods involved in a fantasy.

19. A strong experience in the present awakens in the
creative writer a memory of an earlier experience (usually belonging to his childhood) from which there now proceeds a wish which finds its fulfillment in the creative work. The work itself exhibits elements of the recent provoking occasion as well as of the old memory.

20. First, mental work is linked to a present issue that
arouses a major wish. Second, this is related to a past memory in which the wish was fulfilled. Third, the fantasy of a future fulfilment of this wish completes the daydreaming process. Therefore, past, present and future are united together to create a fantasy

21. Freud gives us the example of the poor orphan boy
that is on his way to get a job. The present opportunity to get a job arouses in him the wish to recover in the future what he once had in the past. This also brings another paradox: while both child and adult are in their own presents, the child wishes to be in the future while the adult wishes he was still in the past. But both past and future are idealized, because even though the kid doesn't know what is yet to come, the adult has definitely gone through childhood already, but he seems to have forgotten that childhood is not perfect either. He doesn't remember when he used to dream of being an adult

22. Then Freud continues to focus on those writers that
create their material instead of writing based on other writers' ideas. He centers on writings that have a hero as the main character

23. In this type of novels the hero never dies no matter
how many obstacles he encounters. However, he is a true hero with a feeling of security like a hero in real life that saves a drowning person.

24. As Freud says in his text with a quote by
Anzengruber: Nothing can happen to me!This represents the greatness of the ego in one's fantasies

25. The same happens with the fact that the female
characters always fall in love with this heroic figure. The rest of the characters are separated into two categories: good and bad. This classification depends upon whether the character helps or opposes the hero. There is also a great interest in the hero's inside, which is described and looked at with much detail

26. The reason for this is the intent of the writer to
find in the hero's personality a diversity of qualities he might relate himself and others with. Therefore, the ego of the hero is divided into many part−egos. This mostly happens in psychological novels and it is the example of a creative writer expressing the fantasies talked about in the previous paragraphs

27. Finally, Freud compares the creative writer to a
child inventing his own fictional world, using his fantasies and daydreaming to liberate himself in a way that will entertain the reader. Through this process, he is able to fulfill wishes. His writing is not only a substitution of, but also a continuation, his childhood games. Kids grow up and replace their games with fantasies they become ashamed of. It is through creative writing that they will be set free.