My best writing comes to me when I’m not planning it.
The other times, I’m working at the craft, practicing my scales so that when the music happens I’m there to witness and record it as best as I can. Sometimes I don’t do well at the first attempt and my subconscious keeps throwing it at me till I get it right. A lot of my writing is built around similar themes– don’t quite know what they are yet, only that when the raw inner voice comes out and plays, my stories seem preoccupied with similar things.
It is as if I’m the chimpanzee being taught a puzzle in a lab. The humans at the other end are trying to stretch my capabilities, and measuring them, while at it.
This is easy to make peace with when I’m writing flash fiction. I’m reasonably confident these days of churning out five to six a week. Two or three of those might even be good.
Trouble appears when I write a longer piece– it is as if I’m a novice singer, running out of breath when belting out an aria. Some of them begin well, then falter, and take a dozen drafts to catch the high notes I want to hit, or rumble into those base notes I don’t want to lose.
Between passes at that story, days or weeks or months might pass, and there I am again, and the story might just hold together without crashing — like a house of multicolored cards held up in air just so. You see the masters doing it all the time, juggling so many cards in air and making such brilliant villas, mansions, palaces. It’s magic. I’m happy when I can hold together the bare bones of a hut, just so long as it stays in air, without bleeding color or losing balance.
The novel. The novel is a different beast– with it I feel like a dog in front of a mirror. I don’t know what I see, only that I see it. And I’m yet to see a dog juggle.
So many mixed metaphors in this post– but it reflects exactly how I feel these days trying to enter into my novel to begin on the third draft. This palace might crumble before it stands up– but at least I’m learning the art of juggling the bricks to keep the damn building floating in air. And it looks like I’m not alone– other writers compare writing to juggling as well:
“I always imagine it like a whole load of plates spinning, and you’ve got the plan, the research and the plot, and you’ve got to kind of keep them spinning and constantly moving between one and the other.”
The complete article about writing and the subconscious, here.
Who knows, maybe I’m meant only to write at shorter lengths. Not that that is easier to do (well).
I have to discover whether I’m meant for longer stories. The real bitch of it? The only road to discovery lies in writing at greater length.
What about you? What role does the subconscious play in your life, as a writer, reader, artist, gardener, mason, engineer, or whatever it is that you do? Do you ever take cues from your subconscious?