Monday, June 2, 2014

What's your subconscious telling you?

I'll admit I don't listen to my subconscious as much as I should. Like many of us, I get caught up in the doldrums of day-to-day life, and to-do lists, especially when I have a lot on my plate.

But living this way means a lot gets ignored. As an example, all I've thought about lately is the six-week intensive literature class that's part of my MFA in Creative Writing. At the same time, I'm determined to keep up with the edits in my current WIP (I just passed 100 pages). Plus all the day-job blah-blah. I don't know how all of you with kids do it. Even without them, I'm working so hard to keep up that I'm too stressed to take time and relax. And my body is starting to make me pay for it.

Sometimes this happens to writers on deadline. Or with a book contract. And then a family crisis happens. Or something else life-related. And then we have to figure out our way through the muck before it pulls us under.

When I went to the Buildin' The Dream conference this past weekend, I was reminded how important relaxation time is, and why taking it is so important during stressful times (even though that's when it's hardest to do). Taking it doesn't mean I'll drop any of the balls I'm juggling. If anything, it means that I'll have time to catch them before they drop.

As writers, we don't leave ourselves a lot of brain space.  That, combined with our go-go-go society and so many women leaning in (and with subsequent rebuttals, including this genius middle ground solution from Creative Juicer), means our subconscious gets squished under a lot of things that might not matter. And then we end up snuffing out our own fires.

Mine was nearly snuffed out, but I was too busy to notice. During a session entitled, Writing From the Ashes, from the awesomely talented Amber Scott, I started to get it back again. And it brought on a flood of tears.

I couldn't stop crying. It was embarrassing. I realized how much I was holding in, and suppressing my subconscious. How sick I made myself as a result of all my self-induced stress. And even worse: that none of it was necessary.

Amber said our subconscious is an order taker--which means we can control the orders we give it. If we don't change the orders, we'll inevitably put that part of our brains--that beautiful, subtle subconsciousness, in chains. Then, not only will our writing suffer, but our health and well-being will too.

In my last post, I talked about how I came to realize that my subconscious is a smarter writer than I am. It hinted at secrets my protagonist's mother was hiding. On the next go through, I played them up, and the story improved immensely as a result.

For those of you (all of you?) juggling a million things--are you taking the time to give your brain the space it needs? Are you taking perhaps five, ten minutes a day to be present with your physical self, and drop your mental tasks for a moment so you can have the strength to pick them back up and carry them?

It's great to work toward goals. But also take time to breathe, even if it's for a few minutes a day. Listen to your body and tune in to what your subconscious is saying. What is it telling you? And more importantly--are you listening?


Angelica R. Jackson said...

I admit that my brain feels the need to be busy all the time! But one way I've learned to keep from running dry is to have lots of creative outlets: if I've got brain mush from too much writing, I'll go take some photographs. Or go putter in the garden. Or even oblige the kitties with some laptime. These activities have the physical component that my brain needs to work on making those subconscious connections.

Karen McCoy said...

Great ideas, Angelica! My brain feels that way too--but sometimes, what I take on is draining rather than invigorating--and I need to find more of the latter. You also are a great example of why it's important that everyone try what works for them--all of us have different ways to recharge.

Cortney Pearson said...

I've found this happening too. All The Things pile up and I'm trying to juggle and do too much. Carpal tunnel flaring up was a physical manifestation of this, which helped me step back and re-prioritize, get things back in order and also give my brain that much needed respite you mention! I'm also getting pretty good at scribbling things with my left hand until the other one heals. ;)

Karen McCoy said...

Great, Cortney! I hope your carpal tunnel gets better soon--ouch! Sometimes those "reminders" are unfortunate--but you're being very smart by listening to them.