Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Coming to Consciousness

Writing helps me come to consciousness.Colombia_brown_wake_225874_l

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?

0 thoughts on “Coming to Consciousness

  1. Charlotte Dixon

    I’m glad the post resonated with you, Leisa!

  2. Leisa A. Hammett

    Yes! Absolutely! Perfect!

  3. Walter

    The good thing about writing is that after you have write something, you can make an analysis of what you have written. Your logic comes in to decipher the meaning behind the collection of words. With so many thoughts rambling in our minds, we can never fully isolate each one of them, unless we write it down. 🙂

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Walter, good point. I see the analysis as a separate process. First, let yourself go with the words and see what floats up to consciousness, then actually set to analyzing, sorting and dealing with them. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Derek

    Hi Charlotte,
    I like Tony Buzan’s book, Mind Mapping. I used it quite often in my writing workshops, where I would sit down with an A3 sheet of paper and write the first idea that came into my head in the centre of the paper and draw a coloured circle around it with a market pen. I would then look at any associations with the ideas and write them in other circles with the same colour pen connecting them by lines. Sometimes disjointed ideas would come up and they would be linked to the central circle idea but with a different coloured pen. I would spend up to an hour doing this, but on average about 20 minutes proved to be enough time. I would then sit back looking at map and start writing, following a “route” through my mind map.

    Another mind-mapping technique I would use would be to create a character in the centre, give him/her a name and history. I would include his/her medical history, schooling, entry into a career, falling in love, marriage, whether he/she got divorced or played around (sidetracked in different marker pens). Then give him/her a problem and a decision he/she would have to make that would either resolve things or have another problem looming on the horizon of the mind map – if you get the picture 🙂

    As a therapist, I have used writing for years with my clients. I would have them go home and just write whatever streamed into consciousness, particularly when they were going through a rough patch. I believe that value in this lies in that when we write in such a way – whether or not we are writing fiction or fact – it is externalizing subconscious conflicts and preventing the conflicts from being repressed again into the subconscious mind where they can continue to play havoc with our lives.

  6. Charlotte Dixon

    Derek, I do love the mind mapping technique and your suggestion of how to use it for characters is a good one. Glad also to hear of how you’ve used writing for your therapy clients. I swear its why I have never used a therapist–I’ve got a handy one in my journal.

  7. Steven | The Emotion Machine

    Funny, I just recently wrote a post on “Writing As Meditation” which touched upon many of these same points. It is great to see other like-minded people who appreciate the psychological benefits of writing (or for that matter any kind of creativity).

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    Steven, Well, you know the old cliche, great minds think alike…I’ve just visited your blog and enjoyed it a lot. Though I think you are joking when you say you are 21, right? You seem older and wiser than that. Thanks for dropping by and I’ll be back to yours regularly, too.

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