I keep mentioning the role of the subconscious in the creative process because, and I’m going to voice a potentially unpopular view, I don’t believe in moments of inspiration. There are moments of ‘eureka’ brought on by the subconscious processing information but alas no inspiration. However, that is simply my view so if you want to disagree go right ahead. It doesn’t matter what I think, simply what you think.

Now, controversy aside, the subconscious is a powerful tool forever processing information without us realising it. You only have to consider the way our hopes and anxieties appear in dreams to realise this. So I think we should give the subconscious a little love and appreciation for all it does for us.

The fact I believe it is the subconscious that provides the eureka moments is also why I think that writers sometimes need to get up and do something else when they hit a road block because thinking about something else can give the subconscious time to process your ideas.

I also like to feed my subconscious on a regular diet of obscure facts, archaic words and the occasional foray into the lifestyle section of the newspaper. I also earwig a lot, a serious amount, it might actually be a problem. People watching too is a good diet for the subconscious. It isn’t simply reading fiction that fuels your creativity, everything around you does, which once again returns to the idea of The Writer as an Observer because it is by observing the world that we get better at creating fictitious ones. The problem is that no matter how imaginative we are there will always be things that happen in the real world that make you think ‘you couldn’t make it up’.

This also returns to the idea I keep mentioning that there is no such thing as intellectual validity. No-one else’s fiction is more intellectually valid and nor is their research material. Though writing obviously involves intellect it is a creative field, to boil it down to intellectualism would be to rob it of a large portion of what makes it interesting. This is not to say that highly intellectual books can’t be interesting or that they are unimportant, but they are no more important than a book that is funny or romantic or anything else. Sometimes people get caught up in the idea of books discussing ‘high concepts’ but given that every book says something about the human condition, whether implied or explicitly this shouldn’t be a concern when you are writing or feeding the subconscious.

Consider for a moment how much scorn is heaped upon romance fiction while it sells in huge quantities. ‘Literary’ circles my pretend it’s some simple silly thing but surely a book about love is exploring one of the deep parts of the ‘human condition’, as it is oft called. And I say this as someone who doesn’t particularly like romance novels so I should surely be biased against it.

So, feed your subconscious a hearty meal and ignore anyone who tries to tell you what to feed it with because only you know what stimulates your creativity.


For more writing advice see my archive page.

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