Letting Your Subconscious
Do the Work
By Lenny Kraft
I have found that writing a
manuscript comes in two different flavors for me:
writing from the mind and writing from the subconscious.
The former is what I've done
for a long time, and it has a simple concept. I know what I want to
accomplish with a scene, so I start building it brick by brick. I put down a
sentence, then I start thinking about the next one. What does my character
say next? Or does she move? How does she move? Or should I include some
piece of sensory information? And if yes, what? I can usually keep that up
for an hour, get 400 to 500 words done, and feel exhausted afterwards.
Then there is the other way,
which I have found rather recently. Every day, I play the scenes I have
planned for the next day in my head. Not just once, but three, four, five
times or more. I watch the character in the same way that I watch a movie --
with the intention of being entertained, not of writing it down. Of course,
every time I watch, they act a little differently, and to me that's a good
thing. I don't try to cling to any particularly nice detail or turn of
phrase. I just watch, and then let go.
And the next day, when I sit
down to write the scene, I don't have to build it. It is already there. All
I have to do is make my analytical mind step aside for a while and let my
unconscious pour out what it has cooked up over the night. And it works. I
don't have to worry about how my character would phrase a question, or how
to show that she feels out of place. I just have to type what comes to my
mind, and not think about it too much before getting it down. By writing
that way, I can often do 500 words in half an hour and feel elated
afterwards. And when I reread the scene later, I often think, 'Yes, that is
exactly the way I wanted to write it.'
And sometimes a tiny miracle
happens. A few weeks ago, I was coming close to the climax scene of my book.
When I started imagining it in detail, I realised that it wasn't working the
way I wanted and that it didn't have enough impact. I thought of several
things I might do, but none of them was what I really wanted. So I told
myself that there were other scenes I could work on until I had the climax
figured out, and let it go. The next day when I sat down to write, I thought
about the scene again and the solution was there. Just like that. And it
gave the scene exactly what it needed.
How does it work? I don't
really know. I think that by turning a scene over and over in my head, I am
sort of telling my subconscious, 'Look, this is what's important to me right
now. Please help me with it.' This seems to be especially effective in the
evening before I fall asleep, maybe since that is the time that supposedly
the mind and the subconscious are the closest to each other. I also think
it's important to give the subconscious at least a night's time to work on
whatever it's supposed to.
I know this approach isn't the
cure-all for writing problems. It has done wonders for me for a while now,
and I can only hope that it will continue to do so.
Can it help you? It might, if
you give it a chance. For a few days, take your mental idle time (on the
bus, at the check-out line, and especially in bed before you fall asleep) to
go over the writing you have planned for the next day. Imagine different
perspectives, different courses of action. Give your subconscious something
to play with.
And then trust it to do the