The Fiction Writer's Journey
Creativity is a subtle dance between the rational and the intuitive.
Posted 2/13/08 | Updated 5/15/20
Writing from the creative unconscious is like walking into a cosmic shopping mall where each shop offers a different persona for us to try on, actually a different way of being in relationship to ourselves and the world. The only means of exchange in this cosmic mall is exuberance, fearlessness and a desire to share and be shared.
Oh, and there's a key to the mall, too. We all have it in our pocket when we arrive, even if we don't know it's there. The key is a desire to break out of the box of who we think we are, who our families think we should be. It is a desire to fly in a place that, as John O'Donohue says, "is full of the most melodious and nourishing and wild freedom. And everyone should go there, to the wild place, where there are no cages, where there are no tight rooms without windows and without doors, everyone should go to the free clearance places in their own hearts."
And so, with our keys, we enter the mall. There, in every window we see amazing costumes. Here there is a multi-colored cloak of the finest silks, feathers and gemstones. The price: a desire to shine. Here there is a hat that reaches the clouds and is made of glittering stars and moons floating in what seems to be space itself. The price: a desire to expand consciousness. There are shops with nothing but wings: dragon wings, fairy wings, butterfly wings, lace wings, velvet wings, silk wings in all colors known and unknown. The price: a desire to fly. The shops go on and on, for they are as cosmic as our creative potential. And what is even more amazing, is that just the perfect shops show themselves to you as you walk by.
I believe each time we return to this cosmic shopping mall, we find different shops shops beyond persona, shops of beauty, depth and mystery that we weren't ready to see when we first arrived. Our eyes and our hearts were not open enough. We were not ready to allow our spirits such freedom of expression and flight. But amazingly, as time passes and we integrate these new parts of self into who we are, we see that there was no shopping mall at all. That we never had to pick or choose all that magnificence was inside us all along!
As creative women and men, we are at home in such mystery; we carry those rhythms, colors and songs inside ourselves. Once this becomes part of our consciousness, we are on a path from which there is no looking back.
How to bypass the dictates of the mind, which is home to the Inner Critic, and write from the heart and gut, which are the realms of the Inner Writer, is basic to my teaching. The best way I know to make this shift is to use the image as a bridge into the unconscious. Why? Because the image resides in the right side of the brain, the place of dreams and sensations. The Inner Critic is terrified of a place where its logic, judgments, criticisms and evaluations go unheeded. Why? Because the right side of the brain is far too chaotic, imagistic and sensory for something as complicated as language. Further, the Inner Critic lives to maintain the status quo, something that is meaningless in the cosmic potential of the creative unconscious.
What follows is an exercise that takes you through the process of using the power of the image to unleash creativity. Then there are three writing prompts along with suggestions on ways to move from the free fall of the image into developing character and story born of the imagination.
Any of these suggestions will work if you shut off your mind (the home of the Inner Critic), put pen to paper and let the writing flow. This exercise is not about writing the perfect story. It isn't even about writing a story, although one may come out of it. It's about accessing the creative unconscious differently.
Remember, your image is a gift from your Inner Writer and its many shape shifts are the key. Write without thinking. Write fast. In the world of the imagination, there is no right or wrong. Go for it, have fun!
©2008 Emily Hanlon. All rights reserved.
Emily Hanlon has been a writer all her life and is the author of seven works of fiction and a book on writing and creativity. More