Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Feeding Your Subconscious Writer's Brain

Writing is like magic: We make something out of nothing. Writers take a seed of an idea, and with a little imagination and a whole lot of hard work, we end up with a story/product that we can sell and that will evoke emotion from our readers, making them come back for more.

Our subconscious writer's brains are like magic, too. The old adage says to "write what you know." That doesn't mean write only about the things you've actually done, the people you actually know, the places you've actually visited. Writing what you know encompasses a whole lot more. Anything you've ever read, movies you've seen, television you've watched, stories you've heard--EVERYTHING becomes a part of you and is stored in your magical subconscious writer's brain.

There's a flip side to this: You can feed information and data into your SWB.

We already do this instinctively when we do research for our books and stories.  No matter whether we pore over tomes at the library, check out a couple of "Dummies" books, conduct interviews or sit for hours searching Google; research is feeding your SWB.

I take this a step further.  I only figured this out last summer when I had one of my writerly moments.  I had been in a writer's slump for five years.  I started projects, but couldn't finish them.  I was making all kinds of excuses NOT to write and I was miserable.  I was really doubting myself as a writer.

During these five years, I read numerous books on the writing craft, took online classes, attended seminars.  My brain was so crammed full of "rules" and techniques, I was literally paralyzed.  There was so much to remember while writing.  How could I ever keep it all straight?

Finally, I'd had enough.  I was tired of NOT writing.  I decided to shove all that lovely information on writing to the back of my brain and trust my SWB to use it as needed.  And it worked!!!  I started and finished a manuscript.  I'll be submitting it this month.  I feel like a writer again!!!

So then it occurred to me, I could deliberately feed my SWB with information to be used as needed.  My current venture in this ongoing experiment is to read as many fairy-tales, folk tales, legends and myths as I can.  These tales have classic story structures and will be great weapons in my arsenal.

Don't underestimate the power of your subconscious writer's brain.  Learn to utilize it and your writing will be the better for it.

Happy Writing!!!

AM    :)


Eleanor Sullo said...

Anne Marie--A very wise and helpful piece. And all so true. When I feel dry writing-wise, I make a collage from magazine clippings, go to an art museum and gawk, or to a play (if I can afford it!), and always come out with ideas or phrases or characters buzzing in the old sub-conscious.
I'll bet your books are great.
Eleanor Sullo: Too Damned Hot, TWRP, March, 2010

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Anne Marie,
When I'm scrolling around on the internet or pawing over books looking for one specific item, I find other things that interest me and I'll start to get ideas for other stories, or I'll imagaine a character in a story I'm working on, wearing that rain slicker saw or cooking on that antique stove. Pretty soon I have a scene and the story moves forward again.

Linda Poitevin said...

Wonderful post, Anne Marie, and very astute observations. I often walk away from my computer when a scene is giving me trouble, because I find that as soon as I occupy myself with something else, my subconscious supplies the answer for me with far less effort than my conscious!
Happy 2010!

Gail Dayton said...

Totally agree. My SWB happens to be a swamp. (Don't know why--it just is.) There are alligators to chomp everything into bits, then it ferments, and when I need it, something bubbles up to the top, and voila! Ready to go. :)

Now if I can just get myself uncranked for the new year...

Lynne Roberts said...

Anne Marie,

I loved this post. I call it 'putting an idea on the backburner' when I send information to my subconscious.

And like you, I try to feed it by reading books in the genre in which I'm writing or sometimes just going to a similiar location.

Take care,


Beth Caudill said...

Anne Marie - My kids are my excuse to read those fairy tales ;)

I'm more paralyzed having too many ideas as opposed to knowledge of how to write.

Emma Lai said...

Great post, Anne Marie. You know I'm a big fan of myths and fairy tales. Or maybe you didn't, but now you do! :) I've decided to get back into my habit of reading things that make me think (myths, history, science) as opposed to things that just entertain me. Seems like if the brains already working on other things, it makes it easier to write. (Though I'm certainly not giving up my reading of ALL things entertaining.)

Barbara Edwards said...

How true. I've always known I have a memory for trivia that no one else recalls. it is a tremendous help when I'm writing to draw on that.

Judy said...

And it's so much FUN to feed my SWB! I love learning new things--of course, I have to write them down so I don't forget them...

Tiffany Green said...

Great advice, Anne Marie. I've been in the same boat before and it's great to know you've figured it out for me! Thanks!

Anne Marie Novark said...

Welcome, Ellie.

Thanks for the kind words.

I've made collages for some of my books. I was skeptical to try it at first, not thinking it would work, but it did.

Talk about an exercise in the subconscious!!!

Anne Marie Novark said...


Isn't it awesome how our writer's brains work?

There are stories everywhere!!! You just have to be open to them.

I have a notebook where I jot down the ideas or else I would lose them.

Marie Tuhart said...

Anne Marie, great piece. It's funny how our minds work. Many times I work out a scene or a plot problem while staring out the train window on the commute to and from the day job.

Anne Marie Novark said...

Hey Linda,

Sometimes taking a break from the computer is the best thing you can do.

Trusting your SWB can make writing a little easier, as you've discovered for yourself.

Anne Marie Novark said...

Hey Gail!!!

I love the Swamp analogy!!!

Good luck with getting uncranked!!!

Anne Marie Novark said...


Whatever we call it, trusting our SWB to come through for us gives us an extra measure of writing power!!!

Anne Marie Novark said...

LOL, Beth.

My kids are all grown, so I'm just reading the fairy-tales for myself.

I just thought of something else!!! I could dig out the old Disney movies and watch them, too!!!

Try not to let the story ideas bombarding your brain paralyze you. Maybe if you jotted down the bare bones of the ideas, it would help.

Anne Marie Novark said...


It's a good idea to always reserve some reading strictly for pleasure. Although, even that reading is filling the old SWB!!!

Anne Marie Novark said...


Trivia is another aspect of the data stored in the SWB. Glad to know you have it to draw upon in your writing. Every little bit helps.

Anne Marie Novark said...

That's the attitude, Judy!!!

Writing things down helps tremendously, even if it's only keywords and such. Anything to jog the old memory or SWB.

Anne Marie Novark said...


Glad I could help!!!

Anne Marie Novark said...


Our brains are fascinating thinking machines. Some of my best ideas and problem solutions come to me in the shower or when I'm washing dishes.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Great post and very timely, as I need to really 'just write!'

Kathy Otten said...

I just saw a comment Celia Yeary made on the Novelsisterhood loop where she keeps a marker board in her shower because that's where she gets 98% of her ideas. I thought that was so funny.

Anne Marie Novark said...

Thanks, Anna.

Now get your BICHOK and Just Write!!!

Anne Marie Novark said...

LOL Kathy!!!

A marker board in the shower might not be such a bad idea!!!

Too funny!!!