Try one of the exercises below, post a comment about your experience no later than NOON on Sunday, June 3rd, and be entered into a drawing to win a $5 off coupon on the tutition for my upcoming EMPOWER YOUR MUSE online class, starting Monday June 4th OR a free critique of up to 10 pages (your choice). Two winners will be chosen!!
The Power of Your Subconscious Mind for Writers
Sigmund Freud, the father of modern day psychology, was the first to analyze the mind and create an understandable model of how it works. In general terms, he discovered three components: the conscious mind, which is your day to day thinking mind; the preconscious mind, a type of “filter” between the conscious and the subconscious minds, and the subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind’s unique characteristics are what make it so powerful. It’s always alert even when the conscious mind is not (during sleep and surgery), it stores material (memory) indefinitely, and whatever you program into it creates your reality. These three traits make the subconscious mind a powerful ally for meeting your writing goals and for building a strong writer self-image. Let’s talk about some ways to capitalize on its power.
You’ve probably had the experience of getting stumped by a problem, only to wake up one day and have the solution suddenly come to you. That’s your subconscious at work, and it’s what I call a sleep solution, or that “ah-ha” moment that comes after you’ve slept on a problem. During sleep, the subconscious naturally attempts to get information to the conscious mind, usually through dreams but also through hunches and flashes of insight later on.
To use this in writing, take a situation that’s blocking you: maybe you need a fresh idea, or a solution to a troublesome plot point, or the name of a new character. Ask your subconscious mind to provide you guidance via a dream or an “ah-ha” moment. When addressing the subconscious mind, speak directly to it. Say, either out loud or in your head, “Subconscious mind, give me a solution to (your problem.)” Then go to sleep.
You can do this with any issue. If you want to know whether a certain agent is a good match for you, ask your subconscious to provide the answer. If you want to know if spending your money on a certain writing event would be worthwhile, ask your subconscious for a sleep solution.
The trick here is to expect an answer. It may come overnight or it may take a few weeks. But anticipate it. Carson McCullers often took weeks-long breaks while writing her books, literally waiting on what she called the “illumination.” This is the same idea. Wait for the answer. It comes in different ways with different people. You may get a dream, or a “hunch,” or the answer may suddenly crystallize in your mind. But expect the answer, be alert for it, and it will come.
A big trouble spot I often hear from aspiring authors is that they don’t hold themselves accountable to their writing goals; they don’t feel their writing is good, they don’t believe they’ll ever get published, they don’t believe they’re worthy of getting published, and so on. This is a self-image issue. You can access the subconscious mind’s help here by asking for a sleep solution. Say something like, “Subconscious, give me a sleep solution that will improve my writer self-image” or “Subconscious, give me a sleep solution that guides me toward meeting my writing goals.” Then be alert to any dreams, hunches, or flashes of insight you get over the next few weeks.
Sleep solutions can also help you with the mundane tasks of writing. The night before I handed in the manuscript for Time to Write, I asked my subconscious to alert me to any errors in the copy. When I woke up, I got a mental flash of several misspelled words and found the errors in the exact sections that I had pictured them.
Program Your Subconscious Mind
You can program your subconscious mind to help improve your writer self-image. One method is called the mirror technique. This exercise was used by Napoleon Hill, Dr. Joseph Murphy, and other early pioneers in the field of positive thinking.
The technique is simple: look into the mirror and make positive statements to yourself. If you want to improve your self-esteem as a writer, say something like “I’m a great writer and editors love my work.” If you want help achieving your writing goals, say, “I write three times a week for an hour (or whatever your goal is).” If you want to improve your creativity, say something like, “Ideas come to me freely and easily.”
A crucial piece of this exercise is that when saying the statements in the mirror, feel how you will really feel when the result is achieved. Emotion is fuel to the subconscious and speeds up the programming process.
As with the sleep solution, expect results. You may feel silly doing the mirror technique at first, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that it works.
Positive Statements and Declarations
The subconscious mind is programmed, on a general basis, by habitual thoughts. For this reason, thinking positive about your abilities as a writer is very important. You’ve got to learn to keep your thoughts trained on the positive at all times, no matter what’s going on.
You start programming your subconscious mind through what I call Positive Statements & Declarations (PSDs). These are short, present tense statements that capture your end result. Write them down on an index card or in a notebook and then repeat them over and over as you go through the day. Here are some examples:
I’m getting better with each manuscript I write.
Agents and editors love my work.
I have the ability to learn to write.
I can do it!
I’m a productive writer who meets her goals.
I am confident in my abilities as an author.
I believe in myself.
You can use PSDs to improve your writing habits, too. For instance, bestselling author Dianna Love often works on as many as three books at a time. If I wanted to emulate that habit, I would program my subconscious with a statement like, “I’m a productive writer like Dianna Love.”
Use the statements above or create your own. The key to making them work is to say them out loud as much as possible, every day. A very powerful way to use this technique is to repeat your PSDs in front of a mirror using the technique mentioned above