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Cosmic Unconsciousness - The Motive Center
October 15th, 2005
11:02 pm

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Cosmic Unconsciousness
I see I've fallen way behind; and I'm about to fall farther behind unless I get something cranked out tomorrow. However, I am up to over 40,000 on the linear novel, and I am amazingly still writing in order, first to last, unless you count a little tweaking of past dialogue to fit the evolving story. 54 writing sessions, which works out to seven hundred-odd words per session, usually written after 11pm.

However, I think I may be taking advantage of a phenomenon I first observed as a grade schooler, which is that sometimes your unconscious is smarter than your conscious mind, and you just need to let it go for a while. The part we call the conscious mind is a very small part of the brain, and some theorists have seriously suggested that it is irrelevant to the operation of thought--that it is merely observing what is going on and interpreting it after the fact. This attitude belongs to as wide a range of people as William James and Julian Jaynes (who is about as convincing as Velikovsky and for much the same reasons). If you saturate yourself in something, your brain will continue to work on it. Dreams are evidence of that, though Freud was wrong in believing all aspects of a dream are fraught with meaning--modern studies of the actual brain activity make it clear that much of it is your brain assembling bits of memory stimulated by random pulses from the brain stem. So sometimes that cigar really is just a cigar. On the other hand, the more you are thinking about something, the more likely it is that a random pulse will hit that thing! (My wife Toni used to dream about working at McDonald's when she worked at McDonald's--which really annoyed her, since she was bored enough by the job during the day...)

At any rate, my 54 writing sessions are not completely sequential because of business trips. I'm about to go on a long one, and I plan to bring this with me, but I am not promising myself to actually do anything with it--as I am going to a high school reunion, then Shanghai, then Melbourne, then Sydney, then back to Boston in the space of eight days, and expect to collapse immediately thereafter! But I digress. This has allowed me to take mental breaks, so when things get sticky, I can try to stay ahead, as I did when I started. We'll see. Traditionally, I write out of order, so I have deliberately deprived myself of one of my best tools to motivate my writing: skipping around to the fun parts. But this forces me to make each piece fun, which has led me sometimes to put in twists to surprise myself.

As indeed I have by writing this much on a late night when I am tired...

Current Music: (I Was Born In A) Laundromat

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From:casfic
Date:October 16th, 2005 12:27 am (UTC)
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I'm a great believer in letting my subconscious come up with the solutions to plot problems, in fact to pretty much the way the entire novel is going to pan out. I'll hit on a problem, or see one coming up and sort of put it on a mental back burner to let it 'percolate' for a while. Usually I find, the answer will suddenly pop into my head, days or even weeks later, and it's a corker. Never failed me yet.

I'm percolating a novel at the moment - doing tons of research and thinking about the characters and the general scenario. I'm sure it's all churning away in there.

I wrote my first novel out of sequence, but I find I much prefer to write linearly. And each one I write slightly differently, learning something new along the way.

Good for you managing to produce so much when you're so busy.
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From:stevekelner
Date:October 16th, 2005 09:05 am (UTC)

Subconscious plotting

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I think that percolation is a product of the real power of the concept of "write what you know." The more you know about something, the easier it is to come up with creative connections among the pieces. I've got a Viking-era Iceland mystery I've had 20,000 words on for a while now, but to restart I think I need to go soak in some sagas & stuff. I've got Byock's recent history of Viking-era Iceland, and when I read that I know I'll want to go back and restart. I know a number of people who love research, and they have to reach some sort of critical mass before they explode into writing. (One or two of them I suspect like the research so much that they don't always start as soon as they could!)

Linearity works for a lot of writers; I have to say I didn't think it would work for me, but it has also forced me out of some bad habits as well as ensuring I don't lose track of what I am writing (as my plotting memory is not as comprehensive as some). I expect that I could take at least some of what I have learned and then apply it in a nonlinear way as well. Whatever works.

Thanks for the positive support. I've been telling people for years that small amounts every day or so will mount up astonishingly fast--no reason not to take advantage of it myself!
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