Thursday, August 09, 2007

More on Dreaming Awake - Tapping into the Unconscious Zone

Here are a few more thoughts on how to get into "the zone" for your writing.

One novelist here (who doesn't believe in writer's block) said to treat the subconscious as a muscle and approach it as something that needs to be exercised. I've heard another poet who sits down to write every day say the same thing. He said, "You wouldn't just go up to bat and expect to hit a homerun without practicing and warming up."

One poet told her that in a class with Richard Kenney, he told his students that every day they need to write down three images that they see each day. Another poet said this technique trains us to be more in the world because you have to pay attention and be aware of your surroundings. Someone said that doing this and seeing so much material around her and knowing that her next poem, story, or essay somewhere around you is a good feeling.

Other ideas--

Stop writing before you finish. Hemingway did this. Sometimes he'd stop in mid-sentence, just so he'd have a place to begin the next day mid-thought. I wonder if this. . .


Use a line at the top of the page for a prompt.

As for writer's block, the reasons are emotional-- fear of success or failure, setting your standards too high (Think Stafford "Lower your standards"), boredom, wanting to be perfect at first, fear of "losing oneself" in the work and the feeling of "loss of control" when that happens.

Writer's block is based on emotional issues the poet/writer is having and not on a lack of ideas. When you are feeling writer's block, it's because there is something inside you that is putting up a YIELD sign and you need to work through why you are feeling this way.

I tend to be someone who will force her way through writer's block. When the wall comes up, you can figure it out and walk around, or you can pull out your bulldozer and knock it down. I tend to knock it down by just continuing to write, even if it's painful and what I'm writing is terrible, I would rather write terribly than not to be writing at all.

My favorite line from the class (which I misquoted a bit in my journal) was this:

"Originality is achieved through diligence, it does not come naturally."

Which means, while we each may have our own "gifts," we succeed because our of diligence, perseverance, and dedication and not because we "were born with it."

Writing is a choice--
Excuses are the tissues (or glass of wine) we turn to at night.

To write a book, be a writer, write a poem, finish a manuscript (or not finish a manuscript) is a choice. Busier people have written books and done bigger things.

We make choices as writers to write or not to write. Each day is an opportunity for a new beginning. You can wake up and say, "Today I will write a poem," or you can choose to do something else. We all have the same amount of time, what you choose to do with your time is your choice.

Be aware of how you are spending your time. If you want to write and are not, look at how you are setting up your day. Do you set yourself up to fail? Do you tell yourself you need at least an hour to write? What self-imposed ideas have you given yourself about writing? Which of these hurt your creative process? What new idea or thought can replace an old one? ("I can write a poem in twenty minutes." "I can start a poem in twenty minutes. I will finish this novel by October.)

Listen to your self talk. Are you always saying "I don't have enough time." Or "There wasn't time to write today." ? There is always time to write, there is just needs to be the choice to do it. What excuses (job, family, gym, pets, etc) do you use not to write? Be aware of your thoughts and what you say because they become your reality.

Give yourself the time to write. Exercise your unconscious. Sit down and put your fingers to the keyboard. Write something without judging it. Then do it again.

Remind yourself we are all struggling with many of the same things and we can each get past them.

Now, go forth. Write.


  1. "it's because there is something inside you that is putting up a YIELD sign and you need to work through why you are feeling this way."

    I know when I feel like I can't write, it comes from a fear of failure, or success.

    Great advice. LOTS of good suggestions.

  2. Very thought-provoking. I read someplace that a good way to break through a block is to Remember Death.

    I just gave myself chills.

  3. Kelli, I like your post here...good advice. & I love the "Remember Death" comment. where's that from?

    I've begun to believe in fiction writer Arundhati Roy's statement that the "stories [or in our case, poems] call me out," as opposed to feeling in control, per se, so that we direct our writing. We do, technically, but I'm starting to think that receptivity and slowness are most helpful for me.

  4. I'm going to borrow these for my creative writing syllabus this fall. I'll give you full credit, of course.


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