Captive Muse

The Captive Muse: On Creativity and Its Inhibition is written from the author’s perspectives as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who has worked with blocked and unblocked artists and writers and as a poet who has herself experienced difficult times with the writing process. Using clinical vignettes, personal anecdotes, and interviews with productive poets and a visual artist, Dr. Kolodny explores the emotional sources of “writer’s block” (or “resistances” to creative work) and explains why writers and artists may avoid doing creative work or how they manage to persist despite the inevitable anxieties involved in making art.

(From the publisher)


What’s Been Said About The Captive Muse:

A book about making art asks of itself no less than unselfconscious artfulness: in this most important of tasks Susan Kolodny succeeds splendidly in The Captive Muse. Dr. Kolodny delves deeply and thoughtfully into the experience of not being able to write creatively and then goes on to explore ways writers begin to talk with themselves about that very complex experience (which previously had been simply a terrible fact). She does this by means of a delicate interweaving of her own experiences of living with writing (when it is going well and when it is going badly) and the beautifully articulated experiences of a wide range of poets and painters. This book succeeds in the very difficult task of making lucid, meaningful statements about the states of mind that are involved in making art.

Thomas Ogden, Psychoanalyst & Author


All writers know that turbulent emotions accompany the approach to the page, and that they affect both the pace of composition and the quality of what finally gets written. Susan Kolodny, a therapist who is also a poet, has given us an indispensable guidebook to this difficult territory. It is lucid enough for the beginning writer but will intrigue even those well versed in psychoanalytic theory.

Alan Williamson, Poet & Literary Critic


The Captive Muse …is an eminently balanced and sound account of what writers and teachers of writing face as resistances in their own and their students’ work. And it would be very good indeed if more psychotherapists read this book and absorbed one of its central tenets—that creative work is not allied with but rather blocked by psychopathology.

Eleanor Wilner, Poet & Teacher of Writing


Susan Kolodny, a psychoanalytic therapist and a poet, offers a psychologically-informed and kaleidoscopic overview of the tribulations and the blockages that… beset the path of writers and artists. With its message of hope and persistence, this book is highly recommended reading for those in the arts and those who admire and would comprehend what the literary and artistic life entails. The help that psychological understanding can offer on this journey is sympathetically elaborated, yet never forced or exaggerated.

Robert S. Wallerstein, Psychoanalyst & Author