The subconscious mind is often seen as the powerhouse of writing creativity but should you let it run amok unchecked?
The other night, I was watching an interview with a writer I’ve never heard of who said he sat in front of the fire waiting for his subconscious to “spew forth” a story. Ray Bradbury, the master himself, also professed to allowing his subconscious to run wild.
For him, it was the only way to write.
The subconscious mind is often credited with holding all that is true and creative in us humans, a febrile pit of evils and faery princes that do battle somewhere down in the oily backwater of our existence.
For us writers, it is credited with the gradual but sometimes thunderous emergence of our underlying creativity. It is the muse. It is the mythic. It is the unknowable and unthinkable, briefly popping to the surface to see what life up here, in the real world, is like.
Some things I would rather remained hidden have recently vomited colourfully out from my supposed subconscious. Quite vile things really. The sort of thing that makes your eyes water and your heart beat faster and the walls close in around you.
I should write about that? What about this? Sweet Jeeezus in Heaven, you’re not going to include that miscreant thing and let everyone in the world read it? Are you?
My conscious self takes these perverse and crippled things of the night, sifts, semi-rationally, through them and says: Best keep that one to yourself boy. No need to let that little baby out to see the light. Good god, man!
Don’t let the rest of humanity see it!
A filter for the subconscious mind
And therein lies the problem with the subconscious mind. The conscious. It’s my filter, see. It deletes, and rewords and shortens, and buries, stretches and twists, like an over-zealous editor to my soul, until the darkness has been turned light, the unfathomable fathomable, making me more mainstream and acceptable.
It’s such a shame.
I am beginning to think that this editor of my darkest, inner thoughts has become more than a little fervent. It likes the control and it’s got used to it over the years as I’ve tried to hone my skills as a writer. It’s got used to my subconscious slinking back with cowardly bows to the treacly slopes of Never-Never Land, where it gurgles and wretches and finally binds with new, more miscreant thoughts.
And hopes for escape.
“The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.” Ray Bradbury Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity Third Edition/Expanded
I wrote an article recently about writers who plot and those who fly by the seat of their pants. I was putting forward the hypothesis that plotting is the best way forward. I was trying to convince myself this was the proper way to write, that more of my conscious should govern, and that I shouldn’t just sit at the keyboard and merely “begin” without a clue of where I was going.
A mistake, I think.
I’m not a natural plotter. I believe, deep in my heart, that it is no damn fun. And writing should be fun, shouldn’t it? You should be able to whisk yourself away into new, previously undiscovered worlds and ridiculously sublime ideas, and devilishly unpopular creeds and cruel and unusual demises, frightening reflections of what you truly are and, with reckless abandon, bathe in them.
In fact, it’s not that I’m no natural plotter, it’s just that I hate plotting.
I detest it.
It’s not the kind of writer I am.
So I think I’ll let my subconscious mind run riot for a while and see how it goes. If you hear of me being taken off to the insane asylum, see grainy pictures of me bumbling disconsolate around my padded cell, then you’ll know things did not go well.
But then I may surprise you, and produce something really worth reading.
Do you have trouble balancing your subconscious mind with the conscious? Let the Feckless Goblin know in the posting box below.