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What is your Writing Fantasy?

By Dr. Zoe Charalambous, author of Writing Fantasy and the Identity of the Writer

Exploring who you are when you write is more important than ever. The discovery of illusions that dominate our reality surely pertains to how we do creative writing, how we do any type of writing for that matter. Even looking at how to write a particular blog entry one is given specific tacit guidelines into which one has to fit in order to be “seen,” in other words, recognized as the proper category of writer of that field. Agreeing that art is there to help us feel most alive and to appreciate, explore and celebrate human existence may mean that creative writing is there to do exactly this; but also in that calling the serious duty of waking us up to stagnant assumptions about our life should be included. If we consider that creative writing is supposed to keep on evolving, an art that rocks the boat and a practice that does not fit in with the molds of practices used to publish what already is, then we must keep on looking for ways in which we can question the perspective we present in our writing; we must search for methods that allow our writing to transgress. Writing is life. If language manifests, then publishing particular writing reads what our world is being-becoming.

Lapping (2016, p.734) writes that fantasy from a Lacanian perspective is not the repression of “a truth about reality; but the repression of the illusory nature of the relation between language/signifier and reality/signified” (Evans, 1996, p. 111; Lacan, 1998, p. 53; Lapping, 2011, p. 111-2). Fantasy is not about the actual truth, if there is one, but rather how our own perception distorts the signifiers, the symbols we use to communicate and to view “reality.”  

The book Writing Fantasy and the Identity of the Writer and the research it is based on were born exactly out of this preoccupation: to deconstruct one’s idea of what one’s writer identity is, and to be able to use new ways of writing, beyond what one has been taught and has internalized as one’s own. This goal is both existential and political. 

As the world has started to adapt to the effects the pandemic has brought about, the focus on what matters in our daily lives has truly shifted, at least for some. As social and economic inequalities have been underlined via the unavoidable lockdown of our public lives fused with our private, to write and publish is political more than ever. It also expresses an existential concern about what it means to live meaningfully. Writing Fantasy and the Identity of the Writer explores and attempts to initiate a shift in one’s writing. It attempts to surprise the reader with a new way of seeing their writing! This shift is suggested as a way to discover one’s own preconceptions in one’s writing practice and thus to help one find the “mean-ing” within one’s writing. The book presents theory and research at the same time as it asks the readers to practice, themselves, what the theory and research presented in the book have demonstrated. Using six commonly used creative writing exercises the book proposes a new way of analyzing one’s writing by asking questions on what one has written and showcasing how the lens of these ambiguously phrased exercise instructions can help one write differently to how one is used to. 

Writing Fantasy and the Identity of the Writer is based on my research (Charalambous, 2014) at the Institute of Education, University College London (UCL), with Creative Writing undergraduate students. I developed a formula one can use in order to help one transcend one’s usual mode of writing: to bring about a shift in one’s writer identity. I use the term “fantasy” taken from Lacanian psychoanalytic theory to help approximate the scenario one follows always when one writes.  Through the six creative writing exercises used in the book, arising from the research experiment conducted, the reader is able to trace the common writing pathways one follows using both the writing itself done and guiding questions provided. What is explored in the exercises too is what is not done, how one does not write, what one avoids without being mindful of avoiding or even when being mindful of avoiding.  Writing Fantasy and the Identity of the Writer is helping the reader, whether writer, teacher or student, to get closer to one’s writer identity by taking a step back and looking at one’s writing in an “Other” way. I capitalize the “Other” here to highlight and include the psychoanalytic use of the term connoting other as something one represses or does include in one’s identity unconsciously.

This book constructs a mirror for the reader interested to explore their practice of writing and writer identity. Moreover, it is a mirror into which the creative writing studies field can stare into in terms of how creative writing is traditionally taught. It contributes to the sparse social research conducted on creative writing pedagogies even after ten years since the inception of the idea for this investigation. If there ever was a time to look into the mirror and explore how we create our own truth about our practices, and indeed that of writing, it is now.

Dr Zoe Charalambous is author of Writing Fantasy and the Identity of the Writer, published in 2019.


Lapping, C. (2016). “Reflexivity and Fantasy: Surprising Encounters from Interpretation to Interruption.” Qualitative Enquiry, Volume 22, Issue 9, p. 718-724