Writing: What Your Subconscious Needs

I lied. I’m actually doing NaNoWriMo this year, mostly because I figure that because this is going to be my last “child-free” (I normally hate that term) NaNoWriMo, so I might as well get something out of it.

And what have I got out of it? Nothing… except the realization that I have no fiction ideas whatsoever. I started writing in hopes that the very act of writing would trigger some kind of idea, but nothing has come to me yet. So I’ve been doing what is more or less a brain dump.

Maybe I shouldn’t say I haven’t gotten anything out of NaNoWriMo so far, because the brain dump has been useful in organizing my thoughts or at least getting them out of my head.

Perhaps my subconscious has no need to entertain itself with a fictional story this time. I realized that every time I have written something in the past, it is something that I needed to write because the underlying theme was something lurking in the back of my brain that I couldn’t articulate in normal words like a normal person.

Instead of saying outright, “I’m struggling with <insert problem here>,” I subconsciously changed it into a story and characters and dealt with it that way. Now, I don’t know if transforming everything into fiction helped to solve the problem, but it did put another spin on it and helped me process it.

So I’m thinking that not only does my subconscious not need to entertain itself, the “problems” it has are not the kind that can be solved or processed with fiction. So my new theory is that writing is a product of the author’s subconscious mind and the theme of said writing is whatever puzzle the author happens to be struggling with at the moment, kind of like when you’re having a problem and you wake up from a deep sleep with the sudden realization of what you need to do.

The subconscious mind is a powerful thing. Don’t underestimate it.

Not Doing NaNoWriMo This Time

Sadly, it is nearly NaNoWriMo time again. I say “sadly” because I’m not going to be participating this year, and my participation has dwindled in the past few years. I got partly through 2016 before giving up, didn’t even try 2017 (but my intentions were there), and I’m not even getting my hopes up for 2018 (but I might lie and say I’m participating just to keep up my “streak” on the NaNo site).

I did remember that this year would be my 10-year NaNo-versary, and that first NaNo was a time I will never forget. October 25, 2008, was the day I first heard of NaNoWriMo (and I forget where I heard of it—probably on the old Evthreads forum or maybe even Deadjournal), and it immediately struck a chord with me. Here was an excuse to get that crazy idea out of my head, even if it sucked! So I signed up and history was made.

I had completed novels before hearing about NaNoWriMo, so the draw of it wasn’t the fact that it would help me finish something. It was the idea that I truly could write much faster than my leisurely pace of 1,000 words a day (sometimes more, sometimes less). It was also the idea that there were other crazy people who liked to write as much as I did (although I’ve found the community, however nice they are, to be a drawback at times).

So every time the weather turns colder and November rolls around, I find myself really wanting to write. It is probably no more than an ingrained habit from all those years of participating, because I have the urge to write now, but I haven’t a single idea in my head except trying to pick up the pieces on stories that I have abandoned. Perhaps I should try to participate and make this my last NaNo hurrah, because next year at this time, I’ll have a ~10-month-old child and be even less inclined to participate. (To all you brave souls who write and have kids… power to you. I don’t know how you do it, and my kid’s not even born yet.)

Posting the participant banner here because it’s super cute!

The Morning Brain Dump

My NaNoWriMo “novel” isn’t much of anything. It’s about a bazillion words too short, and I doubt I catch up, but what I have so far is making me happy. It’s more or less a massive brain dump, in which bits of fiction and nonfiction are interspersed with no organization whatsoever. In other words, if I thought it, I wrote it. If I suddenly thought of something entirely different from what I was writing previously, I made a new paragraph and wrote that, too.

There aren’t any rules, so the “novel” is filled up with stuff like this:

He once smoked. When he blew the ring of smoke out of his mouth, I could see through it and into your eyes. You were probably smoking the same cigarette, breathing the same air, just halfway across town and standing in a different Walmart, a different strip mall, beside a different pickup truck.

I’m hoping that one of these odd snippets can be the basis for a story, or get me back on track with the story I was writing, but most of them are attempts to figure something out. (Although I don’t know what that something is.) If I don’t think while I write, there’s a good chance the writing and the feelings behind it are genuine because they are coming directly from my subconscious mind.

It’s liberating to write that way, without consciously thinking about it. You sometimes find things that surprise you. One technique for writers is called the Morning Pages, in which you write three pages a day in a stream of consciousness. It’s supposed to get your brain started, and from what I’ve experienced, it works. So I’m treating this NaNo like the Morning Pages.

How’s your NaNoWriMo going?