Psychological Power Points of Effective Writing
Bill Cottringer

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” ~Virginia Woolf.

Earlier on in my prison administration career, a colleague, Herb Gross, introduced me to an engineering term he learned at MIT. The term was “perturbation” point, which relates to strategic locations on a building that facilitate implosion. Herb adopted the term to use as a power source for information with inmates. Specifically, he taught the inmates mathematics and calculus to improve their sense of power with this new information.

Later, I expanded this concept to be “psychological power points,” of dubbed “P” Points for short. These “P” Points were the smaller situational interventions, when strategically placed, got the biggest results. Some common examples are newspaper headlines, book titles, political sound bites and teachable moments—such as training on emergency procedures during an actual emergency, or teaching CPR out in the field of elements rather than in a classroom. Below are seven psychological power points that can improve your writing.

1. Purpose.

Success in anything—doing, speaking, or writing—starts out best with knowing and understanding the purpose you have in mind in what you are doing, saying or writing. And, what starts out right usually has a much better chance of ending well, rather than vice-versa. This is particularly true with writing. If you do not use the right words in the right way with the right purpose, you usually get all the wrong results. Not knowing this until the results are in front of you, presents a serious problem in not allowing for any course corrections midstream. The only viable alternative is to seek second and third opinions from trusted sources.

There are many purposes of writing and these reasons are just a few:

• To merely entertain the reader with amusement and intrigue.
• To expose a serious problem and offer a plausible solution.
• To provoke the reader to consider an alternative truth.
• To support a popular belief.
• To plant seeds of knowledge that can be cultivated later.
• To explain a complex idea in simpler terms for easier consumption.
• To solicit further support for a worthy cause or idea.

2. Perspective.

Getting to the best perspective, or point of view, is critical in photography and so it is also with writing. What you see, especially as the best truth of something, is influenced greatly by the point in time and place from where you are doing the looking or seeing. So, if you do not think your current perspective supports your purpose, or you simply don’t like what you see, then all you have to do is change locations in time or space or both.

The best perspective to have in writing is to be somewhere in the middle whereas you can see clearly in both directions and not be held hostage by a lopsided perspective. Probably the worst perspective is to think you have captured the whole truth with just a half-truth, before you have explored both ends of a continuum, or pair of polar opposites. Again, the whole truth usually resides somewhere in between.

3. Paradigm.

A paradigm is a primary perspective of who you see a thing in the global world view. Time paradigms are mechanical vs. psychological and communication being digital vs. analogue. The general view of humankind is a good example. There are three main paradigms of this fundamental perspective. People are viewed as being born into sin and needing better guidance, as good and just needing to avoid bad temptations, or neutral and being depending upon environment influences one way or the other. You can easily see different professions adopting one of these paradigms.

The main paradigm to focus your writing on is the best available truth you can find given a reasonable due diligent search. To do this, you must set aside natural cognitive biases that over-flavor the truth of something making it more fictional opinion than factual truth. The most sensible truth paradigm is that it is evolving like all other success. Therefore, a more tentative attitude towards truth helps support the best purpose and perspective in writing.

4. Perception.

We are all limited by our personal perceptions because that is the main way in which we discern truth from fiction or know what is or isn’t. But when we can become a little more open to the limitations and faults of our personal perceptions and the filters they employ, we are not being held unknowingly in a self-imposed prison by them, like our perspectives.

Earlier, I wrote a book called “Reality Repair.” The main idea was that it is not reality that needs repairing, but rather our faulty and incomplete prescriptions of the realities we perceive. Overcoming initial perceptions of a person or situation becomes as difficult to correct as initially embracing a belief that makes sense to us. But, with the effort to make corrections with these potentially troublesome situations, comes great progress in what we learn and can write about.

5. Paradox.

The Bible has much useful wisdom hidden in paradoxes. That is usually the best way to hide truth from normal sight. Afterall, the obscure takes a while to see and understand, while the obvious even longer. Also, in an earlier book I wrote, “You Can Have Your Cheese and Eat It too,” I challenged readers to learn to not let the words of a paradox keep them being free from an impossible fiat, like trying to unsee a sign that says “Ignore this Sign.”

The explanation of how to avoid being trapped into believing you can’t have your cake and it too, cuts down on half of all potential happiness and success. This alone is worth the effort for writers to teach others how to do this with their creative writing talents. I don’t think anyone would disagree with this idea, but I could always be wrong.

6. Priority.

This “P” Point summarizes the importance of the other ones being a priority in writing—to have one priority idea to write about, along with prioritized supporting points to the main thesis. This is the heart of organizing the writing into clearer communication and understanding. Two ornery problems to avoid are mixing up writing priorities in throwing the baby out with the dirty bathwater, or getting trapped in priority reversals, where the cart gets placed before the horse. Such mistakes become too obvious to the reader.

Once mistaken in this endeavor, you can understand why English teachers stress the utter importance of starting all writing with a good outline. There you can easily see priority problems, without being hidden in a complete sentence and paragraph. It is always much easier to organize priorities with a single idea, one at a time, not contaminated by detailed explanations or busy clarifications.

7. Personality.

The best writers let their personality traits flavor the style of the content they write about. In this sense, if you are writing for a more global audience, then it is useful to develop a well-rounded personality so you can touch all four corners of the expected readers; whereas if you are targeting a specific audience then by all means, use the personality traits that match your target.

Writing troubles often begin when the writer’s push comes to shove personality, doesn’t match the topic of the writing. This incongruence is most annoying when you are writing about something that requires a certain personality trait. If you are writing about the importance of likeability in success, then the personality you expose in your writing certainly needs to be exceptionally likeable—accepting, empathetic, sensitive, humorous, agreeable, and honest.

Use any of these seven “P” Points and see a vast improvement in your writing. The proof is always in the pudding and if you taste it you will know.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ~Louis L’Amour.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D., Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Cascade Security Corporation in Bellevue, Washington; sport psychologist, photographer and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too,” “The Bow-Wow Secrets,” “Do What Matters Most,” “P Point Management,” “Reality Repair,” “Reality Repair RX,” “Thoughts on Happiness,” and “Pearls of Wisdom: A Smart Dog’s Tale.” He can be reached at 425-652-8067 or or