07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

GIrls in the Attic

For those not familiar with the term, “the girls in the attic” is an alias for your subconscious. A writing instructor once insisted the “girls” could resolve any manuscript issue, whether it be a plot gap or character development dilemma. Got a problem? Sleep on it.

Why does this work? While you sleep, your subconscious is chugging away. Our dreams are just one portal to our subconscious. But what if you could tap into this marvelous resource while awake?

I’ve recently done some research on the subconscious. Not for a new book, but to improve my writing. Most experts agree we use less than 10% of our brain. How much less is up for debate, but writing enthusiasts insist all writing, and thus all creativity, occurs just beneath our conscious.

So how do you take advantage of the other 90% of your mind? The answer is simple, yet amazingly complex. You must relinquish control to the subconscious. Sounds easy, but it’s oh so hard. Letting go takes practice and discipline. One method to spur your “girls” is via free writing. Take a blank piece of paper and let the words flow. Those workshops that recommend completing your first draft without stopping to edit might be on to something. Get the story on the page. You can always edit when your subconscious, a.k.a. your creative mind, needs a break.

Another method to spur your inner muse is via improvs. It’s no coincidence that many workshops and retreats begin with a list of words or items and then require you to write100-200 words. These items/lists are called improvs. Improvs work because they remove the pressure of “trying” to be creative. Improvs let you focus on the fun of writing and help suppress your conscious, critical mind.

Start by identifying three words. For instance, a monk, Paris Hilton and a stick of bologna. Okay, get a better list—you didn’t think I could remain serious for an entire blog, did you?

Once you generate your word list, write 100 words. Don’t worry about quality, just write as fast as you can. If you feel inspired after you finish the exercise, return to your work in progress. If you are still creatively sluggish, select three words from the page you’ve just written and start again. Keep going and your imagination will blossom.

Many people believe improvs can alleviate writer’s block. What do you think?

Copyright © 2011 by Robin Weaver


Sarah Raplee said...

What an interesting post, robin. I think you're on to something wonderful!

Tam Linsey said...

I don't do well with improvs, but I do do well with sleep! I had a three week stint of writer's block last year, and had to do mindless things before I realized what the problem was. I had two walk on characters and didn't know they had to be secondary. They came to me upon waking one morning. And now they are the main characters in my latest work in progress!

Judith Ashley said...

There is music that can be played that accesses the sub-conscious or that place in our brain where our creativity resides...which is one reason people find answers to problems through dreams and when in that in-between place (not really awake but not asleep either).

I do have times when I don't write but I don't see that as writer's block because at some level I'm thinking about my stories. When I'm reading an author, I'm seeing ways I can improve my own writing. And when I read posts like this, I'm even more confident of my writing because you've given me a great idea should my creativity desert me.

Vonnie Alto said...

I had no idea that free writing exercises are referred to as improvs. That makes sense. I know I always enjoy them when given them at a conference or workshop. I noticed that I generate a lot of creativity with them so maybe I should do some on my own--except it's more fun to do them in a group even if you don't share them with others. There's something creative about writing when everyone else in the room is writing too.

Diana Mcc. said...

Great idea! I've never tried improvs but will certainly do so in the future. Thanks for a great blog.