This morning, writing in my journal about a problem, I was again reminded of how writing helps me become conscious.
Specifically, I've been working on being present and conscious with food. You know, chewing instead of gulping meals down. Setting my fork down and pausing in the middle of a meal. That kind of thing. I was doing great on this quest, even through all the craziness of a week and a half in Nashville. But suddenly, upon returning home, I'm not doing so great any more. I find myself gulping and inhaling. And worse, I can't even remember what was so appealing about being present with food in the first place. In other words, the goal has lost its value for me.
So this morning, in my journal, I spent time trying to figure out why. And I realized that it has to do with emotion. Processing the events of my week in Nashville, the sudden shock of being back at home–emotion. And, apparently, for me, being the Cancer that I am, emotion trumps all, even worthy goals. So now I have a clue as to what's going on and I can deal with it.
Once again, writing has made me conscious.
Here are some of the ways that happens:
- It helps me figure out what I'm thinking
- It helps bring me present (which is no doubt a precursor to the above)
- It illuminates aspects of my subconscious I couldn't see
I'm referring, here, specifically to journaling. But I think it applies equally to writing fiction, or a screenplay or a creative non-fiction piece. Because I know when I write a novel, I'm writing to explore the themes and issues that I'm presenting.
The ability of writing to bring me to consciousness is also why I've never had to see a therapist. I figure things out on paper, instead of on the psycho couch. (And then I get to spend therapist money on an awesome coach instead.) It is why I am constantly puzzled about how people who don't write survive. It is why my idea of hell is being stuck somewhere without pen and paper.
But sometimes we have the best of intentions of processing on the page, but nothing happens. So, herewith are the most common tools I use. (And remember, these tools work equally well for journaling or any other kind of writing.)
Free Writing–Yes, the old standby is still one of the best ways to drop a line directly to your subconscious. Set a timer, decide on a prompt and write without letting the pen stop moving across the page. When you are done, go through and underline the best bits, and use one of them as a prompt for the next session.
Writing Exercises–I love that author Richard Goodman insists that writing exercises are primary, not secondary writing. Writing exercises can get you far. From the humble exercise can come a story, an article, an essay, a novel, or even simply an illuminating journal entry. Exercises can be found all over the internet, in books, on this site, anywhere.
Morning Pages–Julia Cameron's three pages a day in the morning are very useful for bringing things to light. Sometimes illumination will happen in a single day, sometimes it may take a week or a month for you to see the patterns. But MPs are are a great way to understand yourself and your writing.
What, pray tell, are your favorite tools for coming to consciousness through writing?