by Katrina Crosbie
It’s generally accepted that getting in touch with our subconscious minds is the key to original, creative writing. Many of us have experienced the story that seems to write itself, or the passage that leaves us gasping “Did I write that?”, and would love to be able to access that part of ourselves on a regular basis.
There are methods that can help us to do this. Here are three things you could try: mental focussing techniques, harnessing the power of your dreams and journal writing.
Mental focussing involves directing your thoughts towards a positive outcome. For writers, this can be an effective way of accessing our creativity. It’s easy. Simply sit down at your word processor or in a comfortable chair. Take a few deep breaths, let your muscles relax. Start to repeat, silently or aloud, the words “I am now in touch with my creative source,” or something similar. Know that the words are true as you repeat them. Imagine the physical sensation of creativity flowing through you, perhaps as a warm tingling, or the sensation of a stream of cool, clear water. Really get into this. Make it fun!
Alternatively, form a clear mental picture of yourself writing or typing fluently, words flowing effortlessly onto the page. Hold this picture in your mind as clearly as you can. After five minutes, open your eyes and start to write.
Sounds like New Age nonsense, but it’s not. Sports psychologists regularly prescribe mental focussing techniques such as this to improve the performance of top athletes and sportsmen, and the principle holds just as good for writing.
Another way to get in touch with your creativity is to pay attention to your dreams. You don’t need any specialised knowledge. Just write down your dreams each morning – using the present tense to do this can help take you back to the dream scenario – taking note of any words or phrases which particularly “speak” to you. These can be triggers for an especially imaginative piece of work. American writer Joyce Carol Oates has said that her novel Bellefleur was inspired by a dream of a walled garden which haunted her for years ‘till she felt she had to write about it.
Daydreams can be important, too. A.S. Byatt said of her Booker Prize winning novel Possession: “It was as if it was already written, floating in the air on a network of electrons. I could hear it talking to itself. I sensed that if I would but sit and listen, it would come through, all ready.”
Keeping a journal couldn’t be simpler. All you have to do is buy yourself a notebook and write in it each day. If it helps you get started, set yourself a time limit – say, ten minutes – or a certain number of pages to be filled. You can write anything you like, even if you think it’s junk. Speed is what you’re aiming for. Keep your hand moving. Don’t think. Forget about grammar and punctuation. Don’t look back, don’t cross out, don’t edit. Remember, nobody need see this except yourself.
If you don’t know what to write, write: “I don’t know what to write” over and over till your subconscious kicks in again, as it will before long. Or look out of the window and write about the weather, your garden, the street outside.
The point of this is to outwit the Beast, a nasty creature that lurks in our subconscious, and, having no creative thoughts himself, finds his only satisfaction in spewing out thoughts such as: “You’re pathetic. You can’t even spell,” “Call yourself a writer?” and – the real killer – “What will Aunt Harriet think?”
In journal writing, since there’s no right or wrong way to do it, the Beast’s opinion doesn’t count. And keeping your hand moving means the Beast doesn’t get a look-in.
If you later extract something from your journal to work on – and you will, for you’ll find it a rich source of inspiration and ideas – that’s the time to stop, order your thoughts and bring your craft as a writer consciously into play. But thanks to your journal, you’ll have a good foundation on which to build.
There are other methods which can help you get in touch with your creativity (meditation, for example) but the three I’ve mentioned here deserve serious consideration from anyone who wishes to enrich and energise their writing.
© 2003 Katrina Crosbie.
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