15 August 2017

Guest post: Writing From Your Subconscious Mind by Michael Sussman

A little over a year ago, I read a partial manuscript that burrowed deep into my brain and set my mind on fire. For days I thought and dreamed about it, and every time I told someone about the book, this fire re-ignited, fueling my speech and gestures and turning me into a version of myself that my closest friends and relatives hardly recognized - I was that excited. This book resonated deeply with me and felt important. It contained a narrative whose underlying message was near and dear to my heart, presented with lit geeky humor and a transparent prose style that I love. I believe a large part of why the book resonated so deeply with me was because the author set out to let his subconscious guide the writing process. And when the manuscript found its way to me, our work consisted largely of naming what had come out of that process and identifying where the gaps in the narrative were. A reverse outline, if you will. That book was Incognolio by Michael Sussman, which I am THRILLED to say is now available on Amazon. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys funny surrealist literature or lit geekery, and/or who is on a path to reunite the pieces of themselves. You'll find info on where to find the book at the end of this post. And now, I am most pleased to welcome Michael to the blog to talk about his method of writing from the subconscious mind.

Writing From Your Subconscious Mind
by Michael Sussman

One way to approach writing fiction is to let your subconscious mind lead the way.

This is not to denigrate the conscious mind. It is a critical component of the writing process, especially once you’ve completed a first draft and must begin reworking and polishing your manuscript.

But I have found that when it comes to generating that first draft, it pays to let your conscious mind take a backseat and allow the subterranean realms of your mind full sway, trusting in what Stephen King refers to as the “boys in the basement.”

My favorite quote on this issue is from Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Robert Olen Butler: “Please get out of the habit of saying that you’ve got an idea for a short story. Art does not come from ideas. Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious; it comes from the white-hot center of you.”

So how do you access your unconscious? For some, this comes naturally. Others, like me, must coax the muse out of hiding. This is best done, in my experience, by entering into the twilight state between waking and dreaming. Walking, jogging, communing with Nature, taking a hot shower or bath, daydreaming, self-hypnosis, and meditation can all help. So can writing down your dreams or practicing lucid dreaming.

I often begin with an image, or even a title, and let my mind play around with it. Many writers prefer to work from an outline, but I find that too constricting. I like to let my imagination take flight, trusting that a good story will emerge. Writing my novel, Incognolio, I often started a new chapter with little or no idea where the story was heading next. That kept me interested, as if I were the reader!

In the words of E.L. Doctorow, author of Ragtime and Billy Bathgate: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

So, when working on a first draft, try to let your writing flow, unimpeded by conscious judgment or analysis. You’ll write a deeper, more genuine story if you allow your unconscious mind to guide the way.

Abandoned by a cackle of laughing hyenas, Michael Sussman endured the drudgery and hardships of a Moldavian orphanage until fleeing with a traveling circus at the age of twelve. A promising career as a trapeze artist was cut short by a concussion that rendered him lame and mute. Sussman wandered the world, getting by on such odd jobs as pet-food tester, cheese sculptor, human scarecrow, and professional mourner while teaching himself the art of fiction. He now lives in Tahiti with Gauguin, an African Grey parrot. You can connect with Michael via his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

INCOGNOLIO is available now on Amazon in ebook and paperback formats, or you can enter the giveaway on Goodreads through Aug. 18th.

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