Writing Habits Writing Process
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Working With Your Subconscious

Estock_commonswiki_126921_lSo, we all know that it's important to be alert and focused while writing–present and conscious, so to speak.  But what about utilizing your subconscious, that part of your brain that is always running, no matter what you're doing? Have you thought about how to take advantage of that?

I have.  

Because, basically I'm lazy.  I like passive income, passive exercise, and passive writing. (Passive in the sense that its easy to do, not passive in the construction of sentences.) So, over the years I've perfected some techniques of using the subconscious to work for your writing.  And here, I share them with you:

1.  Seed the brain. (Sometimes known as writing while you sleep).  Read your WIP before going to sleep and see if any brilliant ideas pop into your head upon rising.  Scan your latest chapter before you head out the door to work and let your subconscious chew on it while you're doing other things.  Your subconscious is always at work–might as well give it a writing-related issue to ponder.

2.  Fill your brain up.  Years ago, I read a book called The Technique for Producing an Idea.  The process was simple: read every single thing on the topic at hand until your brain is filled to the brim. Then stop and go golf (the book was written by an ad guy in the sixties) or something.  Et voila, up will pop the idea you were looking for.

3.  Mix it up.  Write by hand!  Or, if you write by hand most of the time, write on the computer.  I'm not a brain expert, so I'm sure of this, but I think these different modes of expression trigger different areas of the brain–and when I write by hand, my subconscious feeds me material like crazy.

4.  Get up from the computer.  Time after time I've risen from my desk chair and immediately had a thought about my WIP, causing me to run back to my desk. The subconscious is no doubt a trickster, liking the idea of me running back and forth from computer to whatever else it is I want to do.  I think that sometimes the brain just needs a bit of space–and getting away from the computer allows this.

5.  Practice repetitive activities.  This one is magic and never fails to work for me.  Knit, weed, mow the lawn, sew, vacuum, whatever.  There's something about the repetitive motion that encourages ideas for your writing.  

6. Take a shower.  I got the idea for the novel that I'm currently fired up about in the shower. Something about the ions being released by the water?  Or maybe its' because you are removed from all other stimuli? I dunno, I just know it works.  

7.  Turn a negative into a positive. This one is far and away the hardest, because it takes constant practice.  When you have a negative thought about anything–your body, your life, your writing, your spouse–train yourself to think about WIP.  This is a two-fer, as it saves you from damaging negative thoughts, and it will help you write your novel.  And, let me repeat, it is freakin' hard. 

Do you work with your subconscious?  If so, what technique do you use?  Leave a comment!

Photo from Wikipedia.

0 thoughts on “Working With Your Subconscious

  1. J.D.

    That green part—this is your brain on adverbs.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Ha! Maybe so.

  3. Don Williams

    All good points Charlotte. I personally like to seed my brain, fill it up, stuff my face with yummy food, and then sleep on it all. I find that if I take the steps that you outlined, plus have a nice snack and snooze, I’ll somehow dream about what I was thinking about and my subconscious brain part will automatically fill in all kinds of cool details and ideas, some good, some not so good, leaving me with the simple, and some times not so simple, choice of gleaning the best parts to use.

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Oooh, missed the part about filling myself up with good food–I like that!  I had dreams last night that woke me with their intensity and left me with pounding heart, but alas, they did not shed light on my WIP.  I'm glad yours do.

  5. Amanda Martin

    I love this – I do all these things and it’s easy to think of them as down time rather than nurturing the subconscious. I find walking the dog is particularly fruitful for ideas (especailly dialogue).

  6. Charlotte Dixon

    Ha! Now you get to give yourself credit for working instead of goofing off! I am currently dog-less but walking myself always gives me ideas.

    Sent from my iPad

  7. Kayla Dawn Thomas

    At some point in time, I have experienced each one of these situations, except number six. The funny thing is, I didn’t realize exactly what or why ideas came at those times. I can be a negative thinker, and I love the idea of channeling that energy into my work. My brain training is starting now! I have to confess, my big ideas generally come when I’m driving a long distance. I’ve had to start using my phone to record voice memos so I don’t forget them by the time I get to my destination.

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    Ooh, I love driving long distance, too!  I just got back from a mini-road trip across the state–three hours plus in each direction. Something about being on the road always loosens my brain.  I had a great writing session today!  Thanks for commenting.

  9. Maryse

    I use my dreams. I’ll ask a question before going to sleep and see what shows up for me. It’s always been very helpful. And BAKING!! I love to bake. When I write, I bake. Each time I’m stuck, I put another batch of cookies in the oven. My kids love it and ideas flow. 🙂

  10. Charlotte Dixon

    I like to do the writing while asleep thing, too!  But baking–that's a new one for me.  Probably because I don't consider myself the world's greatest cook or baker and sometimes it is more stressful than relaxing.  I bet your kids LOVE your idea-creating habit!

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