Ten Ways To Be A Vague (Psychology) Writer

[Written in 2006.]

  1. Use big, complex, technical words. Making sure everyone knows just how smart you are is a great way to hide just how insecure you feel. And who knows, if you use ten or more huge and indecipherable words per page you might just be able to convince yourself!
  2. Beat around the bush. When an octopus is under attack he squirts black ink to throw off his predators, and when writers take forever to get to the point they’re doing the same. Camouflaged writing doesn’t get torn to shreds – but on the other hand no one important reads it.
  3. Qualify everything. Couching everything in “it might seem that” or “it is my opinion that” or “one might argue that” or “I think that” creates the impression that you are humble and full of healthy self-doubt. Whatever! More realistically, you shudder at the idea of taking a stand and hope your smoke-and-mirrors trick will fool the world.
  4. Quantify everything. When people place science over spirit they are terrified to look within. More often than not, statistics prove little of depth and are an exit ramp off the highway of truth. It’s hard to criticize numbers, so if you can’t handle criticism stick to the numbers.
  5. Footnote every idea. Writers who cling to the dress of Mommy (be she Freud or Jung or St. Paul) guarantee that they’re part of a family with sticking power – and look really well-read to boot! When you sacrifice originality you never have to become an adult, never have to be real, and most importantly never have to connect with your deep rage at those who crushed your creativity, traumatized the best of you, and whitewashed your uniqueness.
  6. Insert words in foreign languages. Jarring your reader’s thought process throws him off his center, shows him who’s really boss, and renders him more likely to believe your nonsense. This is very similar to basic hypnotic technique. But take note: Disguise your motives well. Choose words your audience is likely to have seen somewhere, but unlikely to be able to decode. Phrases from dead languages work best, and more spiritually befit your purposes.
  7. Loop. He who loops never has to take a forward step – out of his own backyard. The formula for this is as follows: When in doubt of your own conclusions, repeat them ad nauseum (pardon my use of Latin). If underconfident about an idea, arbitrarily restate it in the next paragraph in a slightly different way. This leads into the next point:
  8. Bore your audience to death. Dullness threatens no one. Few have the guts to tell you that you’re putting them to sleep, and most who take boring articles or books seriously are also boring themselves. Thus you’re in safe company. Bird without feathers flock together.
  9. When in doubt, write more. Everyone who’s anyone knows that long books have the most to say, right? Hardly. Lao Tzu got down his whole philosophy, the basis for the religion of Taoism, in eighty-one short poems. The Sermon on the Mount – the merest fraction of the Bible – nails Jesus’s philosophy. Alice Miller covered the essence of her life’s work in the first chapter of “The Drama of the Gifted Child.” And The Velveteen Rabbit barely tops thirty pages! That said, it sure looks good to have a big, thick book with your name on the front.
  10. Stick to the third person and the passive tense. No one charges neutered writers with treason. And everyone knows that narcissists only talk about themselves – so clearly if you don’t talk about yourself you’re not a narcissist. As if most (psychology) writers aren’t clever enough to have figured that out, and can’t disguise their motives! C’mon, out with it – tell the truth, be yourself, show some spine, make a difference!

3 thoughts on “Ten Ways To Be A Vague (Psychology) Writer

  1. Psychology article: You will be happier if you do this!

    Me: Great, how?

    Psychology article: You’ll be able to, trust me.

    Me: Okay, but, HOW!?

    Psychology article:…Let me rephrase my point in another article.

    Me: GRRRRRR!

  2. there are more awful books out now than ever. Good points about how awful some of the books are. You’re right about redundant paraphrasing, but at the same time implausible certainty doesn’t work either if they don’t explain their reasoning. There is nearly always an exception to the certainty they offer, yet many don’t bother to explain the exceptions. Which makes it look like they haven’t really examined the argument correctly. But God yes I completely know what you mean I spent half my life wanting to throw books across the room in complete disgust.
    There is inordinate amounts of padding which drives me completely mad. I completely forgotten how redundant most of the staffers until I found another book which had quite a lot of useful content. And I had to read it so much slower because it was actually full of useful stuff. Normally I can just go through stuff hundred miles an hour because it’s repetitive and bland.

    Everybody wants to play it safe, be bland and say nothing. And everybody is terrified of offending somebody. Everybody has extremely conventional outlooks. Very tiresome. And it hasn’t escaped my attention that people talk accurately from the child’s perspective are almost impossible to find. Everybody wants to jump on the forgiveness bandwagon. Which is stupid. If it’s premature. I’m astonished at how awful it is. And I’m even more disappointed in how often the public just swallow this stuff without even thinking. The new age your mind body spirit public is a bit gullible from what I can tell. But there are some decent books out there. They are just very hard to find.. it takes ages. To find them. Drives me mad. I get so fed up having to read so much stuff to find some good stuff.. hey ho. rant over lol
    I confess I am guilty of the paraphrasing though. But that’s because I don’t want to be accused of not having considered the exceptions to the argument I’m putting forward. But it does sound a bit crap. I haven’t quite figured out how to get round that yet. All statements make me nervous because I think it’s not true on this occasion. But I’m sure that’s just part of learning how to write things.
    But In short yes. I sympathise. It’s crap out there. 🙂
    Keep up the good work so we’ve at least got one author that doesn’t make us want to throw the book out of a window..

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