I Love My Subconscious

But my subconscious doesn’t trust me. It doesn’t seem to think I’m smart enough to figure things out on my own.

Sometime in the wee hours last night I dreamed about a hornet. And a couple carpenter ants. And some earwigs. In the dream I’d moved some books and they all came out. They were crawling on me trying to sting and bite and I was madly trying to get them off me.

You know how nightmares go. When you describe something in the daylight after the fact, the dream sounds silly and you wonder why you were so scared. But during the dream you’re terrified.

My subconscious, though, didn’t seem to care that I was in the throes of panic trying to get the hornet off my arm.

Get this. In the middle of the dream, a, calm voice intrudes and says ‘this is what your character needs to feel right now’.

Geez. Even in my dreams I’m thinking about writing.

So now the tea is cold and my fingertips are numb because I’ve been madly typing for the past three hours.

I’m so glad my subconscious is smarter than me.

Knocking on the Story’s Door

I’m using this blog post in order to work my way through a writing barrier. It always helps to problem-solve through putting things into words.

The current work in progress is a dark story in a lot of ways, and draws from myths. I can see where it came from, during health issues and radiation and the ‘monsters’ we fight in all walks of our lives. I’ve put a lot of work into it and am at almost 80,000 words. The characters are joining up and I think I’m building toward the end, but there are still scenes to go.

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I’ve been fighting discouragement over the story because I can’t see the individual pieces as a whole. I’ve never written something where I have multiple points of view and multiple storylines. It’s been challenging to write, but up until now has also been fun because of that challenge. I work with one group of characters and if things slow down I can simply set them aside and move on to the next group. In a way it’s like writing several stories at once, with the fun of seeing how the threads all eventually tie together in the pattern of the story as a whole.

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I know how the story will end, and how all the pieces will eventually fit. But right now, writing the individual threads has become hard. I’m tired of fighting those threads, and want the lace fully woven.

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Added to that, I can see that a lot of editing will be needed. I’ll have to format the manuscript first, to put all the pieces in one place. I’ll then have to read it as the whole cloth and revise where threads don’t match, or where they pull away or snag. Plus the normal editing of things I fear I’ve ignored. For example, this is a story set in rain and woods, and yet my characters seem to be moving through it under invisible umbrellas, for as dry as they stay. Another example is that they are all dealing with the inciting incident, but smaller conflicts aren’t built up enough. So once the first draft is done, there’s still going to be a lot of work to do.

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And as if that wasn’t enough, a new story is tapping on the door of my imagination, trying to pull me through into its world.

I need to reignite my passion for the mythical story. I need to focus on it and quit looking for excuses to stop working on it in order to open the door wider to the new one.

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I’ve thought about taking parts of the current work to my critique group for review. But at least one person was uncomfortable with the selection I took last time because they don’t like scary things. And I have to ask myself this question: am I taking a piece there to be critiqued, or to have them tell me it’s awful so I can quit?

The thing is, it’s not awful. It’s rough and not great at the moment, but I think it’s going to be okay. I owe it to the characters, and the story, to finish it.

Which means I need to ignore the new one tapping at my imagination and immerse myself back in this myth, walk with these characters as they make their way through the mountains. I’m just not sure how to do it. If I take a break from this story, I’ll never go back to it.

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Okay, so I guess that means the solution is as simple as the old adage to put my butt in the chair and work.

Thanks for listening.

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What Makes Creativity So Hard?

People talk about how hard it is to write, to paint, to create. They’ll talk about the time commitment, having to learn the craft, struggling with prose or dialog, character development or plot arc.

Sure all of that external stuff is hard.

But you know what makes it really hard? Yourself. Not just the voice of the inner critic, but days when you know you need to plant your butt and work, but discouragement is a weight on your hands, imprisoning them. Or the evil little Comparison Gnome that whispers you’ll never be as good as…(add anyone you want here). Or the stuffy accountant voice that points out the money you spend vs. the money that isn’t coming in. Or any of the thousands of ways we tell ourselves we can’t. Or shouldn’t.

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The writing space left all alone.

Today is a discouragement day. I have the afternoon to write, but instead I’m thinking of the things wrong with the current work in progress. Things that on any other given day I know I can fix during editing, but that today, weigh me down and whisper ‘is it really worth it?’

Recently, I came across this quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

‘Often the creative life is slowed or stopped because something in the psyche has a very low opinion of us, and we are down there groveling at its feet instead of bopping it over the head and running for freedom. In many cases what is required to aright the situation is that we take ourselves, our ideas, our art, for more seriously than we have before. Due to wide breaks in matrilineal (and patrilineal) succor over many generations, this business of valuing one’s creative life – that is, valuing the utterly original, beauteous, and artful ideas and works which issue from the wildish soul – has become a perennial issue for women.’

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Along with trying to balance, or juggle, too many things

Easily said, right? Take our creativity more seriously. Value our creativity more. Ms. Estés goes on to talk about the inner wild woman needing to not act nice about protecting her soulful life but to draw the line and push that inner critic back where it belongs.

That all sounds wonderful when you’re reading it, but come on, what exactly does that mean? How exactly do you do that? This gives us theory but no nuts and bolts.

I think the nuts and bolts come through experience dealing with the external pressures on our lives that tell us our writing, or our creativity, aren’t as important as going to work, paying bills, cleaning the house, or whatever our brain tells us are our responsibilities.

After all, responsibility is more important than being selfish and doing something like writing a story or painting a picture that will never pay the bills. Right?

But over time, I think we all slowly learn that we need something that gives our souls some peace, even if it’s skipping work once in a while to go fishing, or take a walk in the woods, or see a play.

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Or nap under the Lupine

And those are the nuts and bolts we slowly learn. The tiny little things that allow us to mute the inner ‘predator’ as Ms. Estés calls it. That voice of discouragement, or criticism, or cruelty.

Today, with my weight of discouragement keeping me from writing, what tools will I pull out to bury it?

I’ll go for that walk in the woods. I’ll make some tea. I’ll read for a bit. Maybe I’ll look for some new music for inspiration. I’ll allow myself to be discouraged, to think everything I’m writing stinks, because today, it all does stink. I’ll allow it to stink for a while, and then I’ll email my fellow-writer and tell her why I think it all sucks. She’ll come back with what she’s struggling with in her current project, and we’ll laugh, problem-solve, figure out what honestly does reek and need to be deleted, and what just needs to be polished a bit to shine again.

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Where I’m headed shortly to ‘walk it off’

So my nuts and bolts: acknowledging the voice that’s preying on creativity (today, discouragement), recognizing it’s a temporary thing and will pass, knowing stepping away for a bit will help, and then sharing with someone who knows exactly what it feels like and who will keep me from doing something stupid like deleting the whole book. Or from doing something dramatic like declaring (with hand to brow) ‘I’ll never write again!’.

All tools that have taken me a lot of time, trial, and error to learn how to use. To learn what works.

Today the discouragement is heavy. Maybe in a few hours it will have eased. Maybe in a few days. Either way, it will eventually fade.

For a while anyway.

Because creativity is hard, and we’re our own worst enemies.

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The writing space, soon to be occupied