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  • Writer's picturetrevorcarterva .

Writing: Into the Psyche

Writing can be an immersive experience. We create fictional characters, give them a personality and background, and place them inside a fictional world. To fully appreciate our characters, we have to experience that world as if we were them. This is an organic experience that often occurs, at least for me, when the process of writing begins. The unconscious mind already has ideas about how the characters will act and what they'll do in a certain situation. We can plan everything out in advance but more often than not, our characters do develop a mind of their own as we write. There's a bit of schizophrenia in us writers. Like a good actor who becomes their character, so too does a good writer become entangled with their characters.

Writing from the unconscious takes a certain amount of preparation. One must get out of one's own way if you will. Our conscious awareness focuses on one aspect of the story. But the unconscious is able to see everything: the big picture and the granular details. Learning to trust your unconscious is essential to good writing. Some people refer to writing from the unconscious as being in the "zone." It's a type of liminal state, a state between conscious awareness and unconsciousness. It's the same state of mind that we find ourselves in every night, just before our consciousness fades to black. In that brief moment, the unconscious is surfacing, ready to become the dominant mind.

You're probably asking, 'How do I get into the zone?' Let's take a look at a technique that Thomas Edison used to come up with his ideas.

Thomas Edison, as most everyone probably knows, was one of the greatest inventors of all time. He invented early versions of the electric light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera. His inventions revolutionized the world. How did he do it?

Mr. Edison was able to come up with ideas by putting himself in a hypnagogic state. That is the same state I mentioned earlier, a state between wakefulness and sleep. The great inventor would take a cat-nap in a chair, holding steel balls in his hands. If he drifted too far into unconsciousness, the steel balls would drop to the floor and wake him. In between the time he sat down and the time he fell asleep, he would receive new ideas.

I use a similar technique. I don't sit in a chair. I lay down and get myself into the most comfortable position I can. I close my eyes and wait. Before long, my mind and body feel as though they've been bathed in warm honey. Within only a few minutes (10 minutes tops), I start to get ideas. I use this technique often when I'm writing. If I find myself stuck in my work of fiction, I enter the liminal state. Prior to laying down, I think about what it is that I want an answer to. It could be the direction I need to take my story, the plot, or even a character.

If you find yourself stuck with your writing, give this technique a try. You may be surprised at the results.

Happy writing!

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