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Subconscious Says What?

A technique has been working so well for me lately that I thought I’d share it with folks out there, and that is the use of the subconscious mind in writing. Lots of different creative types have discussed how the subconscious mind can be tapped to help with various artistic endeavors. One of my favorite examples is that of Salvador Dali. Before he would paint sometimes, he would lie in bed with his arm outstretched with a book in one of his palms. Once he entered that state between being awake and being asleep, his arm would relax, the book would drop, and he would be startled awake. Then he would get up and paint, the images from his subconscious mind still fresh in his now conscious state. I tried that once or twice. Both times I woke up well rested several hours later with my book on the floor. Oh well.

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For me, however, especially when I am in the outline stage of a story, I use my subconscious mind to help me plot and to address specific structural or story problems. If it’s close to bedtime, I frame the problem in my head, and often, the answer comes to me while I am still trying to drift off to sleep. Sometimes it reveals itself in the morning upon waking. I have been having the most luck with posing a problem or wondering about a plot point right before going out to run errands or to drive to work in my car. If I put on unfamiliar music that I like, ideas just start popping up left and right. I often have to jot down notes while at stoplights, or sometimes I will just call my answering machine and leave myself a message. Once when I tried this recently, nothing seemed to come. I re-phrased the question and tried again, and “bingo!” the answer came to me while I was driving down the road.

I am not sure of the exact mechanism that I’m enlisting in these examples, but whatever it is, it’s working for me on a regular basis. I think that the unfamiliar music plus the driving is placing me in some kind of a trance or semi-hypnotic state that engages my subconscious mind. So, the next time you are unsure of where to turn, try asking inward. You might just find the answer for which you are looking.

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