Creative Unconscious

I picked up my guitar, ready to play, but soon realized that one of the chords to Dust in the Wind was eluding me. I started once, twice and again, but always got stuck on this one chord. After trying a few more times (and not wanting to give up), I decided to use a trick I’d learned from years of playing piano to retrieve this “forgotten” chord: play the song faster, and think about it less.

PianistSo I played the song faster, and tried not to think about it—and that’s when the magic happened. Sure enough, my fingers found the chord right on time without missing a beat. I stopped to stare at them. Wonder of wonders, my fingers had placed themselves perfectly without my direction—this chord had been lodged somewhere in unconscious memory, effectively out of reach.

Artists dance with their unconscious minds every day (don’t we all); creative people in particular can benefit from understanding how their creative unconscious works, and doesn’t work. If you concentrate on a task, do it slowly and deliberately, you encourage your unconscious mind to take a nap (or rather, to occupy itself doing who knows what else). This isn’t a good thing if it turns out that your subconscious mind is smarter than you.

So, are you having trouble thinking through your story? Stop thinking. Take a break or better yet, just barrel through and let intuition take over. The answer will appear as if by magic, but it’s not really magic—not really—just invisible, intangible, subconscious you.

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