Locus of Control and Gender in Writing

There’s something I’ve been speculating on after talking about the phenomena with my wife–she’s a physics professor who does educational research on women’s achievement in physics classes. One piece of the literature on research on gender interactions with the classroom has to do with what’s called locus of control, or where the student believes control over things like grades is located.

For example, a female student who does badly on a test will typically internalize the blame I’m a bad student, I didn’t study enough, whereas a male student will typically blame the instructor or the material they wrote a bad test, this is a bad class.

Over the last few years the advent of writers’ blogs has given us an unprecedented window into writerly processes and writers emotional interaction with their art. I’ve seen an awful lot of I’m a bad writer, I’m not good enough, my work is crap, from professional and semi-professional writers talking about how they felt before they sold their first story or novel, but not as much the system sucks, this editor just didn’t get it, etc. and I’ve been wondering about it.

Is it a function of gender and locus of control? My sample set is heavily weighted toward women.

Is it just not wanting to offend the folks who might be buying your next novel?

Is it that these writers are an unusual sample set and have a more female communication style?

Is it that these writers are an unusual sample set in that writer self-esteem is lower than normal?

Something entirely different?

I’ve written a bad post?

I don’t know, and I don’t have a good idea for coming up with a measurable answer, but I thought it was an interesting question.

Oh, and for the record, I tended to blame the system, a position reinforced when stories that had heaps of rejections suddenly started selling after my publishing record improved. I tend to code very male on things like that.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog February 27 2007, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)