• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

Let Your (Sub)conscious Be Your Guide

http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2974074688_2121cfd48... 525w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2974074688_2121cfd48... 479w, http://writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2974074688_2121cfd48... 640w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" />Flickr Creative Commons: Photophilde
“I didn’t know what I was writing about until I’d finished the book.”
Have you ever heard an author say that?  Have you ever said it yourself? 
It’s happened to me more times than I can count. As authors, we can be blind to the themes in our own work.  I have a theory — often, what we’re writing about is influenced by what our subconscious is secretly grappling with.  If we can recognize those issues and themes, we can use them to deepen and strengthen our writing.
First, let’s look at why we may not recognize these emotions and themes. In my experience, writers are often not self-aware.  Oh, we’re great at identifying feelings like panic and self-doubt, but we’re not always completely cognizant of how events impact us physically and emotionally.  Here’s another theory — as writers, we’ve trained ourselves (or have been born with the temperament) to turn our attention outside, not in. We worry about what other people think, what other people are doing or saying or feeling, and not about what we think or feel. This creates a disconnect between what our emotions actually are, and what we think we’re feeling. We insist we’re happy and relaxed, for example, even when friends or family point out that our hands are clenched or we’re scowling.
So what do we do with all those churning thoughts and emotions we don’t acknowledge?  We push them into the bottom of our busy brain’s caldron, where they bubble and combine and eventually threaten to spill over. Now, this disconnect isn’t limited to writers — emotions are tricky territory for many people.  BUT — writers, unlike their normal counterparts, have a way to work through what’s bothering us, often without being aware that we’re bothered. And it’s these unacknowledged emotions or issues that help to shape our story and give it cohesiveness. It’s the wound under the bandage of words that the reader senses but never sees, and if it’s done right, it leaves a mark.
Here’s an example from personal history.  When I was writing my first book, I was in the middle of several major life changes.  I had just become a parent, and I was moving — a good and positive move to a neighborhood with features like sidewalks and trash pickup and grocery stores you didn’t have to drive a half-hour to get to — and when I told people I was thrilled, I truly meant it.  But to get to this new home, I was leaving behind a little spot in the country that I loved. And in the exhaustion of new parenting and the rush of packing and listing the house and finding a new place, the sadness and regret of saying goodbye got pushed to the back of my brain.
In odd moments I kept noodling away at the book I was working on, which I’d billed in my head as a type of phantom love story along the lines of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. But funnily enough, the biggest and most wrenching love story in it turned out to be between one of the characters and a house, an impractical country heap he adores and has to leave.
Coincidence? I think not. Consciously done? Definitely not.
Since then, I’ve gotten better at recognizing these hidden emotions in my writing before I’ve actually finished the story, and I’ve learned how to use them to strengthen and deepen my work.   Here are two steps that have helped me:
Create distance.  It’s hard to see what you are writing about when you are right in the middle of it.  With enough time and space away, it is easier to pick out the hidden issues and themes of what you’ve been writing. Then, once you’ve recognized them, you can work to deepen them and enhance your story.
Here’s another example.  Shortly after I started my second novel, a friend passed away unexpectedly.  She was someone who had been very important to me, but we were at different stages of our lives — she’d raised her children and was on to grandchildren, and I was just starting out as a parent. When I moved, our friendship naturally faded and we drifted apart. I hadn’t seen her for several years before her death, although we’d corresponded and had made plans to meet several times — plans she’d delayed, I later realized, because she’d been so ill.
A few months after she died, I had to stop writing because of life demands.  When I was finally able to pick the book back up, I wasn’t sure I’d recognize the story any more.  What I did recognize, however, was my lost friend. In those months after her death that I’d been able to write, my subconscious had stitched her throughout the pages.  I found her in the physical description of the main character, in that character’s favorite expressions, in the wine she drank and the dogs she raised.  It was a tiny delight.  And having recognized her, I was able to go back and build a more realistic character, and use the emotions I finally recognized I felt at losing her to create a more poignant and dramatic sense of grief in several key scenes.
My time away from my novel was about three months, which is a serious chunk of time.  It may be impossible for you to leave a manuscript for that long, but if you can find a way to come back to it with fresh eyes, a shorter span of time off would certainly do.
Compare your life to standard milestones and become aware of how they impact you.  What are big events for people your age? What type of emotions do those events arouse?  Are you dealing with them on a surface level? Even if you don’t think they pertain to you, take a harder look.
A few months ago I came up for air from the business of daily life and realized how much closer I am to being an empty-nester than new mother. All around me friends are sending their slightly older children off to college, and in a few short years that will be me.  One night I took that knowledge and a glass of wine to the first 20,000 words of my latest WIP and suddenly understood that the whole book is actually all about parenthood, about how desperately I’d like my children to remain young, about what I would give to keep them that way.
But of course the actual words on the page are nothing like that. My characters aren’t sitting around realizing they are getting older and that their children are soon to leave.  My readers may never glimpse this deeper story — but if I do it right, if I use the knowledge I now have to build a secret second structure below the first — they’ll feel it in every word.
And what if I never find those readers? What if these last two books turn out to have been written just for me? Then the process of self-discovery will still have been worth it.  My lost friend will still be there, safely threaded throughout the story for me to find, now that I know where to look for her.  And my children will always be young and I will always be their parent, and I will recognize how deeply that role matters to me and what I would do to keep it.
Sometimes, the most important reader is yourself.
Your turn — have you discovered unexpected themes in your writing?  Were you able to use them to deepen your story? If so, how?

Wish you could buy this author a cup of joe?

Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!

About Liz MichalskiLiz Michalski's first novel, Evenfall, was published by Berkley Books (Penguin). Liz has been a reporter, an editor, and a freelance writer. In her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and oversized show dogs. These days she's downsized to one husband, two children and a medium-sized mutt.Web | Facebook | More Posts

"Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
Mark Twain

Random picks

  • How do you go about writing exciting and unstoppable self-help books? Well, that is what this article is about. Why don't you look inside?
  • A Guardian blogger calls for a return to opulence in the novel. I would add my voice to a return to oppulence in the advance for a novel. Or at least the advance for my novel. Decadence has its roots in texts such as Petronius’s Satyricon, which date from as far back as the fall of the Roman empire. But the movement was picked up centuries later by the outlandish perversity of De Sade, Thomas De Quincey’s opium-induced chimeras, the Romantics’ cult of the individual and the Gothic morbidity of Poe, before finding its apogee in late 19th-century France and England,...
  • Silent Anatomies by Monica Ong has been selected winner of the 2014 Kore Press First Book Award as selected by Joy Harjo. Fnalists were Sass Brown (Alexandria, Virginia) for USA-1000, and Jennifer Franklin (New York, New York) for Daughter. Joy Harjo (2014 Gugenheim Fellow) said of the winning work, Silent Anatomies: "This is one of the most unique poetry collections. It's a kind of
  • Much of what gets published in journals comes down to there being some sort of gimmick. The gimmick gets people's attention, and if you're not a known, respected writer already, sometimes attention is what you need to get people to actually read what it is you've written. Different is good. Different is interesting. Sometimes different is as strong or stronger than traditional. And sometimes, traditional is enough.McIlvoy's Complete History reads like a set of gimmicks, one after another after another. The stories contained in this collection include chain letters, wills, monologues, stories...
  • II   When Natanael arrived, the first thing he wondered was, “Am I in the right place?” The taxi driver could not understand why my friend wanted to get out at that spot on the riverside road. Now Natanael found himself on the verge between the several lanes of the highway and the concrete incline that sloped down to the half-dead river. To avoid the stench, he followed Faustine’s advice and put his hand in his pocket, drawing out a handkerchief perfumed with vanilla essence.…... Translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn bilingual version

Recommended sites

Most recent titles

Fast fact about writing

Ancient writing (at first pictographic in nature) is best known from clay and stone inscriptions, but the use of perishable materials, mainly palm leaf, papyrus, and paper, began in ancient times.