The four inner beings of a writer

Susan Sontag writes in her journal:

The writer must be four people:

1) The nut, the obsédé

2) The moron

3) The stylist

4) The critic

1 supplies the material; 2 lets it come out; 3 is taste; 4 is intelligence.

A great writer has all 4 but you can still be a good writer with only 1 and 2; they’re most important.

Professor Betty Flowers also writes of four different inner characters (via Rachel Jepsen):

Turning to the board, I write four words: “madman,” “architect,” “carpenter,” “judge.”

“What happens when you get stuck is that two competing energies are locked horn to horn, pushing against each other. One is the energy of what I’ll call your ‘madman.’ He is full of ideas, writes crazily and perhaps rather sloppily, gets carried away by enthusiasm or anger, and if really let loose, could turn out ten pages an hour.

“The second is a kind of critical energy-what I’ll call the ‘judge.’ He’s been educated and knows a sentence fragment when he sees one. He peers over your shoulder and says, ‘That’s trash!’ with such authority that the madman loses his crazy confidence and shrivels up. You know the judge is right-after all, he speaks with the voice of your most imperious English teacher. But for all his sharpness of eye, he can’t create anything.

“So you’re stuck. Every time your madman starts to write, your judge pounces on him.

“The next morning, ask your ‘architect’ to enter. She will read the wild scribblings saved from the night before and pick out maybe a tenth of the jottings as relevant or interesting. (You can see immediately that the architect is not sentimental about what the madman wrote; she is not going to save every crumb for posterity.) Her job is simply to select large chunks of material and to arrange them in a pattern that might form an argument. The thinking here is large, organizational, paragraph level thinking-the architect doesn’t worry about sentence structure.

“No, the sentence structure is left for the ‘carpenter’ who enters after the essay has been hewn into large chunks of related ideas. The carpenter nails these ideas together in a logical sequence, making sure each sentence is clearly written, contributes to the argument of the paragraph, and leads logically and gracefully to the next sentence. When the carpenter finishes, the essay should be smooth and watertight.

“And then the judge comes around to inspect. Punctuation, spelling, grammar, tone-all the details which result in a polished essay become important only in this last stage. These details are not the concern of the madman who’s come up with them, or the architect who’s organized them, or the carpenter who’s nailed the ideas together, sentence by sentence. Save details for the judge.”

There are some striking similarities; Flowers’ description of the madman is similar to Sontag’s characterization of the nut (obsédé) and the moron. The stylist is the architect. The critic is the judge. Flowers’ description of the carpenter has no equivalent in Sontag’s journal entry.

Most importantly, Flowers elaborates, “The trick to not getting stuck involves separating the energies.” To me, it’s really similar to the creative process; if you know which phase you’re in, you’ll be all set and focused. If you don’t know which phase you’re in, your expectations will get the best of you, your mind will get confused and foggy, and a block will form.

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