Your Subconscious Knows More Than You Do

A few years ago a friend and I had a disagreement about a television show or a movie.  I can’t remember which, so that tells you how good it was.  The writer included a lot of little things that connected to each other and commented on the real world.  I argued how cool it was that these things happened in the work and how I was amazed when these things organically happened.  She argued that the screenwriter intentionally put these things in to garner a reaction and that writers do that all the time.

After a few more years of writing with a particular emphasis on writing more and more over the last year I can say definitively that we were both right.

My experiences have caused me to develop a great interest in the unconscious subconscious and its roles in creativity.  I believe I was right in that argument that the writer did not consciously decide to put whatever it was that he put in the movie that seemed so cool and perfect for at the time.  I also believe that she was right in that somewhere in the writer’s mind connections were made that pointed to these moments occurring to make a specific point.

I think many of the most memorable moments that we as writers come up with are an unconscious idea that has lurked around the fringes of our minds until the perfect moment.  Then, as writers we recognize that extraordinary idea and seek to exploit throughout the rest of the piece.  It starts off as an unconscious notion and blossoms and is nurtured into a full blown idea and concept.

The mind fascinates me particularly the creative mind.  The creative part of your mind needs room to breathe.  It needs space to find and make the connection between all the disparate ideas and data your conscious mind seeks out and absorbs throughout the day.  That means you need to turn off all the myriad of electronic devices we use for “work,” entertainment, and communication.  It is OK to turn the television, laptop, smartphone, iPod, tablet, etc. off for an hour or two a day and let your mind wander.  Go for a long walk or a long drive or just sit in a comfortable chair doodling on paper with a pen.

The best movies, television, books, and music are completely immersive.  They get into all the different parts of your brain, which is the reason they are so good.  Good episodes of Mad Men, Game of Thrones, or Breaking Bad bring you into their worlds with layers upon layers of ideas, images, and story.  So much is there that it is hard to consciously understand everything that his happening on the first viewing.  On the second and third viewing your mind is able to move that niggling little feeling that something else is going on here from the back of your mind to the front of your mind and you see something else that makes the show even richer.

As wonderful as those shows and other art and entertainment of that quality is, it is also sometimes good to get away from them for a while.  The same must be true of novelists.  After I finished my month of writing, I was pretty uncommunicative.  If you asked Lankford, it was like talking to a stump at times.  Even before that, as I was writing it, I was always writing it even when I wasn’t.  You live something that massive all the time.

I worked in fund raising/development at an arts center for a few years and I got to meet a lot of artists during that time.  Most of the artists I met were also some of the hardest working and dedicated people I have ever met.  However, most civilians have this idea of artists as difficult and flighty, and they can be and that comes from the need for complete immersion into whatever it is they were doing at the time.  For an artist to be good (not even great) you need to the complete dedication to the craft of your art (technical ability and diligence) to go with the willingness to climb into the art completely in order to allow everyone to see all that you are and that you want to say about the world you see.

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