So lately I’ve been rambling a lot about my subconscious. A lot of the time, I feel like my inner life is stronger than my outer, self-aware one. If you’ve read Sandman, it’s like Delirium driving the car while Matthew the Raven screams “Drive on the right! Drive on the riiiiiight!”
Lately, my subconscious has been jerking me around with what I can and cannot read. Can read: All the Donald Westlake. And Hard Case Crime novels. Can’t read: Charles Dickens. And a lot of other writers whom I won’t mention, in case someone tries to patiently explain to me how wonderful they are. Okay, one example. Liz Williams. She writes Asian-themed SF. I can’t read her. I recognize that the opening of Snake Agent is a thing to be appreciated. But right now? I don’t get to read it. I have dozens of authors like that, I start to read, and every paragraph I find myself mysteriously doing something else, like the dishes.
Another example: I have a music box on my desk. It’s a cheesy unicorn statuette that play Camelot or something. I usually don’t even notice it’s there. Every time I see it, I think, “That’s is so cheesy. I should think about taking that to Goodwill someday.” And then I don’t see it for a couple of weeks. My subconscious, that is, my inner two-year-old, likes that cheesy statuette. It doesn’t want me, my conscious, to do anything to it. So it edits it out of my reality. I can still see it, especially if I glance at it out of the corner of my eye, but the thing has a Somebody Else’s Problem* field on it, and most of the time it’s just gone.
But the relevant item here is that, through writing morning pages/journaling and other techniques, I’ve realized that it’s pretty pointless to fight my subconscious. It is going to accomplish what it sets out to do. All I can do is get it to drive on the right, so to speak. Mostly.
The benefit is that the more power I invest in listening to my subconscious, the more I’m surprised by what I write. Maybe not surprised by the general outline of the stories, because I’ve observed patterns on how subconscious likes to see stories go, but in the fine details.
Also? I don’t get writers’ block. I just don’t.
I have days where I don’t write because I am doing something else, or that I write something completely different, or that I’m not supposed to be writing, and that’s what I do anyway, is write. But mostly I just sit down and write.
Because I don’t screw with the inner two-year-old.
I don’t tell it that it can’t do what it wants to do. If it is bound and determined to try something, I let it. If it wants to abandon a project, I may or may not let it – but I don’t force it forward. I go exploring and journal about why I don’t want to finish something, and I find out what I, Mamma Consciousness, can do to take care of that reason. Sometimes it’s because I need a writing technique I don’t have yet – I’ll go study that technique. Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid of people’s reactions – I’ll walk myself through the worst-case scenario and how to handle it. Sometimes it’s because it feels wrong – I’ll back up a couple of paragraphs or a page or two, delete, and ramp up at it from a different direction. But sometimes it’s because I’m forcing myself to do something to make someone else happy. And then I’ll just let it go.
I don’t yell at myself not to write fan fiction.
I don’t yell at myself to write something saleable.
I don’t have a hissy fit at myself over grammar and spelling–the underliney things on Word are turned off.
I listen to music, or I don’t, or I listen to the same song over and over again.
I change the routine to fit what the day needs.
When I’m depressed or anxious, I take care of that.
I monitor my physical needs and take care of those.
If I make plans and then get bored with them, buh-bye plans.
Now, if I were the kind of writer who didn’t crank out a ton of words, this wouldn’t work. And of course YMMV. For example, some people are motivated by deadlines. I am both motivated and undermined by deadlines–so I try not to get close to them, because when they hit, I’m so anxious that it’s hard to write at the top of my game. And usually avoiding work means that I’ve put myself in a situation where my conscious self says I must do something, and my subconscious self says I can’t, and I have to stop and think about that anyway.
My subconscious is the boss. I don’t like it. I actually tried to not write that sentence several times before I let myself write it. But that’s what needed to be written, and I wasn’t going to get to write anything else until it was done. I’m like the secretary. I can try to keep the boss on schedule, but sometimes it’s a struggle.
So. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re suffering from some serious writers’ block–you might want to stop forcing yourself to do things, and instead do what it is that you want to do, whether it makes sense or not. It’s taken me a while to sort this out, but as I stopped forcing and started letting, writing started to get easier. I still have to provide some structure–and I still have to put Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard–but I don’t dread sitting down to write.
Because I know, I mean, I really know, that it’s going to be fun.
*Douglas Adams, from the Hitchhiker’s series. The SEP field doesn’t make things invisible; it just makes it highly unlikely that anyone would ever want to look at them.