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Sandler, J. Sandler, A. (1994). Unconscious Fantasy, Identification and Projection in the Creative Writer. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 17(4):317-332.

(1994). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 17(4):317-332

Unconscious Fantasy, Identification and Projection in the Creative Writer

Joseph Sandler and Anne-Marie Sandler

Freud's paper on ‘Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming’ (1908e [1907]) is a remarkable piece of work, particularly when we consider that it was written less than eight years after the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. In it Freud traces a similarity between creative writing and the small child's play in that the child ‘creates a world of his own, or, rather, re-arranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him’ (pp. 143-4). It is only because the child likes to link his imagined objects and situations to things he can see and handle, that play can be differentiated from daydreaming.

For Freud, both play and daydreams represent the fulfilment of wishes. In the child this is the wish ‘to be big and grown-up’ (p. 146), but in the adult's daydreams he fulfils wishes which are of two essential kinds, i.e. ambitious or erotic, and often the two are combined. Where the adult differs from the child, says Freud, is that the adult may be ashamed of some of his daydreams, and therefore wants to keep them secret. It is important to note that thus far Freud is speaking of conscious daydreams which can be tolerated privately but which the person would not want to have made public (p. 146).

Daydreams make use of current reality, i.e. ‘they fit themselves into the subject's shifting impressions of life, change with every shape in his situation’ (p. 147). Freud puts it clearly when he says:

Mental work is linked to some current impression, some provoking occasion in the present which has been able to arouse one of the subject's major wishes. From there it harks back to a memory of an earlier experience (usually an infantile one) in which this wish was fulfilled; and it now creates a situation relating to the future which represents a fulfilment of the wish. (p.

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