Consciously unconscious

When a writer is on her game, when she has found a creative groove, she writes at two levels.

At the conscious level, she weaves the stories of her various characters and environments into a literary carpet of amazing delicacy. She understands the work won’t be flawless when she’s done, but she knows and is comfortable in the belief that she can surgically pull the extraneous threads later.

This is a beautiful thing. But an even more dazzling spectacle is happening at the unconscious level.

This is the level at which the writer’s subconscious creates delicate near-invisible tendrils of connections between characters and themselves, their surroundings and other characters. It is at this level that amazing nuance and metaphor is added to a story. Without the harsh distractions of planning and plotting (both very important, mind you), the subconscious is free to perform magic that we may not recognize or appreciate until much later in the creative process.

One way you witness this is when you realize that conscious concerns you had before sitting down to write have been miraculously addressed, as though story-writing elves snuck onto our computers overnight.

Interestingly, this is one reason why it’s important to have other people read your stuff. They will see things you cannot. In some cases, it is because of what they bring to the table—their personal biases and experiences. But more importantly, it is because they aren’t encumbered by your blinders.

Other readers see your work more clearly because they are untainted with what comes before and after, whether on the page or in your head.

I witnessed and shared this personally in two reading group sessions where my fellow writers created incredible metaphors that deeply informed their lead characters. Yet, when pressed directly as to whether they were conscious of those decisions, both were the most shocked people in the room.

Both demurred that the incidences were quite accidental, but whereas I might agree that they were unintentional, I don’t believe they were in any way accidental.

We make choices for a reason (or several) even when we don’t know what those reasons are. The truth is our truth no matter how ignorant we may remain to what that truth is. We cannot help but splay that truth across our pages.

To some extent, I think creative harmony lay in not caring what those reasons are. For if we try to dissect them, I fear we run the risk of killing them. It is enough, I think, to let our subconscious guide us while we work consciously.

Let the magic within you happen. Your work will be the better for it.

I never intended to take a photo of someone urinating in a Washington, DC alley way, but am tickled I did...especially as he realizes he's been caught

I never intended to take a photo of someone urinating in a Washington, DC alley way, but am tickled I did… especially as he realizes he’s been caught

2 thoughts on “Consciously unconscious

  1. Very interesting. I think that at some level I can apply these thoughts to photography too…to any art form really. And your pee pee photo is hysterical!

    • I agree about the photography (and the pee pee).

      My frame of reference is typically my writing, but I truly believe that art is art and that on some level, we are drawn to certain things for reasons we cannot consciously fathom.

      I think the trick is in trusting in your unconscious self and reveling in what it reveals when you are better prepared to accept it at a conscious level.

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