At my feet as I write, a Norwegian Elkhound is sleeping. For the last half-hour, she has been dreaming her way through squirrel chases and hikes with her owner, bolting after foxes and pouncing on groundhogs, all from the comfort of the living room floor. Her subconscious is working through what is on her mind – the thrill of the hunt.
When I was in graduate school, my friend Eric told me that one part of his writing practice was to intentionally think about the chapter of his novel that he was working on as he was falling asleep. Then, as he slept, his subconscious mind would work on his writing, even while he wasn’t actively engaged with the writing process. He was a firm believer in this practice, finding that it helped him solve plot problems and develop character traits much more fully than he was when he just use his conscious awareness to write.
In my sleep, I am often working through things – problems that occupied my day, pains carried through the paths of life, stresses that I’m preemptively sorting before I actually face them. Perhaps I would do better to practice the Elkhound method and focus my mind on what I most enjoy. In my case, it would be writing, not squirrel chasing . . . at least most days.
Maybe like the dreaming dog at my feet, I could use my sleep to catch my not-so-proverbial quarry – better writing.
What do you make of the subconscious mind and writing practice? Have you ever tried to actively engage it for your writing? Why or why not?