Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dreaming Awake - Finding Inspiration and Tapping into the Unconscious Mind

I attended a session on how to find inspiration (or get into "the zone" to write) by fiction writer Ann Pancake, who is an incredible person and writer.

Yesterday the class shared techniques of what they do to access that unconscious part of themselves. As she puts it,there aren't too many books that explore that "without being to woo-woo."

Here are a few she recommends:

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande (1932)
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner (1983) --there's a section in here about self-hypnosis.
Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (1996)
Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott (1997)

Some students recommended -
Zen and the art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Writing the Australian Crawl by William Stafford

And also the Stephen King book called On Writing was supposed to be good as well.


Techniques to tap into that unconscious place and be in "the zone" vary and are individual to each writer. We are each unique beings that need to find what works best for us.

Here were some things that worked for others--

Have a ritual (make a pot of tea to bring to your writing place, light a candle, say a prayer)

Find your best time to write (either early morning, midmorning or late at night-- she says a lot of times it's that closeness to sleep that helps, before your brain has done something --say pay the bills--that turns off that your unconscious mind)

Set a writing time/place and stick to it - the visual cues or stimuli around you will eventually tell your brain "this is where I write" and you can faster access your unconscious mind.

Do a repetitive task-- laundry, dishes, filing, running, walking

Use music - some students have a soundtrack for their novel that they play over and over while writing. Some use just one song.

There a CD called "Creative Mind" that is supposed to help access your unconscious mind. One student listed to a CD of waves.

Ask for help before you begin-- Literally, ask the unconscious, God, universe, whatever you believe or call it for help with your project.

Listen to the voices in your head. Allow yourself to follow what they say even if it doesn't make sense or isn't logical


To generate work, write from "the zone." Write in fragments and the things that come to you that you don't completely understand. Allow yourself the freedom of not editing, just moving forward. You can edit later.

For me, the best suggestion was that - Before you begin writing, ask yourself "What do I need today" or "What to I need tonight" and write down what you'd like to accomplish in your writing.

We're finishing up part two of the class this afternoon, so I'll add a few more things about this later today.


  1. Some good tips--I especially agree with having a writing time/place that is not negotiable.

  2. I am reading Writing Down the Bones for the first time and I love it. I got a comment on my blog today from someone asking me if I know other bloggers writing about Goldberg so I will pass your link on to her.


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