You MUST keep a journal. That’s an order!

Now the title of today’s post may sound a bit daunting, or a bit creepy, depending on your point of view. What is this fluffy accessing your subconscious crap? Is this some of: you think it, it will come attitude? Or is this some weird brain manipulation that will mess with me? It’s neither and it’s simple.

I’ve used my subconscious all the time for my creativity. Reading a recent post via The Artist’s Road talking about channeling energy for a certain character made me think about my own use of the subconscious. Baaaack in the day, when I was a wee teenager, I wrote probably hundreds of hours worth of poetry. I was reading, writing and thinking about it so much… that I even dreamt poetry. I would literally wake up in the middle of the night with an entire poem in my head. It was at this point in my life I made a better habit of keeping a journal by my bedside for that very reason, but I didn’t really think about what that meant for my creativity, I just thought it was some cool circus trick.

Ideas come when you least expect it. Be prepared.

But thinking about all of this again, I also use my subconscious for idea generation. ALL the time. I swear it doesn’t matter what time I’m putting myself to bed, as soon as my head hits the pillow my mind races with ideas. It’s a mad rush to write it all down in the hopes that some of it makes sense in the morning or is worth further investigation (some of it sounds better at night than with fresh eyes with the light of day). I’ve come up with ideas for artwork, idea development for my blog, business planning, you name it and I’ve thought about it just before I go to bed. But if I’m awake, why am I calling this a subconscious harnessing of creativity? Because I don’t direct my thoughts, my thoughts just rush out onto paper and I let them.

A great example of my subconscious working for me is a current book cover design I’m working on with a few other people. I started with a brain dump, (aka my mind map) and then I refused to look at my mind map or actively think about the project for about a week. However, I consciously tasked my subconscious (whoa…sounding a bit trippy..) with developing the idea further. After a few exchanged emails with collaborators and a few drawings later I had a draft drawing. We wanted to refine it further and came up with some word associations to think on. So, I let it sit again. And just last night I had a waterfall of images in my head associated with the project just as I fell to sleep. I stupidly did NOT write these ideas down (if you do any creative thinking before or waking in the middle of the night WRITE IT DOWN or it may disappear!) but thankfully had something trigger my memory about them this morning. And now I’m collecting image references and running around my apartment eagerly developing two new ideas for the cover.

So, what to do with this mess of a brain? That is one reason I encourage, no I IMPLORE you to take a small sketchbook or journal with you everywhere. It doesn’t matter that you are focused on driving to some remote town you’ve never been to or if you are in the middle of doing the dishes, your subconscious is always working for you. (I’m reading an amazing book that suggests it drives much of our life as well, which I’ll share later perhaps). But how can you better harness it?

Step One: Acknowledge its presence and activity in your life. Awareness is half the battle.

Step Two: Give into the lack of control. Yes you A-types, that includes you. If I can do it, you can do it (ask my sister, she alphabetizes spice racks and believes I will do the same in my next 12 months of solely working on my art 🙂 ) You can’t assume control or try to exert control, in fact that is what I think brings on bouts of “block” for writers and other creatives. I schedule my deadlines and timeframes to hopefully include some of that freedom I need for my subconscious to process and develop an idea. I know that doesn’t always work, but I bet if you reflect on projects that were more “intuitive” you are often more proud of those. I am.

I don’t know about you, but I still sleep like this. Thankfully no one has photos of me to document it.

Step Three: Document, document, document. If you don’t write it down, it’s as good as gone. Especially if you are distracted and thinking about a thousand other things (Write those down too. It helps!).

Step Four: I don’t know! It’s particular to you. I don’t think this whole process is as linear as you (or definitely I) would like. You need to reflect on how you can make it work for you. Each brain is different so I assume each process is subtley different as well.

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: If you don’t have a journal, BUY ONE. Right now. Or make one, I don’t care how you get it (okay please don’t steal) but you need one to document all the good ideas that develop in your head! Now, begin the practice of keeping it by your bed. Write down everything that comes to mind as you fall asleep or just as you wake in the morning. Do it for one week and let’s see what happens. Would love to hear how it works for you!