Writerly Wednesday: conciously unconscious writing

Fascinating!  I'm reading Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer which was first published in 1934. Now I think I know where Julia Cameron got her idea for morning pages.  As we all know, in order to be a writer, we must write.   Brande says:

You must reach the unconscious to flow into the channel of writing.  Psychologists will forgive us for speaking so airily about 'teaching' the unconscious to do this or that.  To all intents and purposes that is what happens; but less elegantly and more exactly we might say that the first step toward being a writer it to hitch your unconscious mind to your writing arm.

She recommends rising early, half an hour or even an hour and without doing anything else, write. Write anything that comes to mind. Then the next morning, do it again without reading what you wrote the day before.  This basic exercise is training you to write.  After a while, increase your output by a few more sentences, a paragraph or two.  And soon, writing will become effortless and no longer 'arduous or dull."  Your subconscious and conscious will quit fighting....hopefully.

Once you are writing with ease every morning, take the next step.  Everyone has time in their day, so make use of it.  Schedule time during the day to write for 15 minutes and stick to it.  A debt of honor.  If you say you are going to write at 3:00, then do it, without complaint or excuse, no matter where you are or what you are doing.   The same as morning pages, write anything at all.  After a while, choose a different time.  You are basically teaching yourself to write at any time of the day without having to fight your subconscious. 

The important thing is that at the moment, on the dot of the moment, you are to be writing that you teach yourself that no excuse of any nature can be offered when the moment comes....You must learn to disregard every loophole the wily unconscious points out to you.  If you consistently, doggedly, refuse to be beguiled, you will have your reward.  The unconscious will suddenly give in  charmingly, and begin to write gracefully and well.
My conscious is already fighting with my subconscious - but what about your work days, how will you manage and blah,blah, blah.  Put up your dukes, subconscious.  

I adore Dorothea Brande and loving her book about cultivating a writer's temperament, teaching your two sides - left brain and right brain to cooperate - as well as making writing a habit, as well as displacing old habits.  Looking forward to reading 'the rest of the story' as Paul Harvey use to say. 

As for the rest of the story, go see what my fellow writers have to say over at row80 and give them a little pep talk if needed.


  1. I like the idea of writing first thing in the morning before anything else has a chance to fill up your brain. At that point, the day is still a blank page, so beginning with writing is a good idea. An inspiring post!

  2. I like the idea of attaching your unconscious to your writing arm. I'm trying to learn to read faster, and one of the hints is to silence the reader (the one that "reads" to you, that says the words to you while you look at them) and absorb what you're reading directly into your mind. I think the two are somewhat related: in both cases, you're detaching an intermediary (the voice reading to you or telling you what to write). The morning pages are a way to get your writing done before that voice in your head wakes up.

  3. This is fascinating to notice that advice for writing in 1934 is about the same as now!! I am doing this in ROW80 working with my dream images, doing it first thing in the morning. I believe it does work to mold the two kinds of consciousness.

  4. So cool! For me writing is a treat and a break, so I welcome any chance I get, and can usually sit down and get going at any time of the day. Or night--just ask my husband about rustling papers in the dark as I try to write by feel! Unfortunately, this year I've had to cut back, but hopefully it will lead to more and better writing in the future.

    Enjoy training your unconscious!


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