From bestselling author Dave Farland:
For the past two posts, I’ve been speaking about how to get “zoned in,” to reach that mental state where your writing time is the most productive and where the quality of your work is at its highest. I spoke about the importance of getting rid of all external and internal distractions, and I suggested that you need to move into your writing zone slowly, often by performing writing exercises. Now comes the third step:
Step 3: Play. Shakespeare once said “The play is the thing.” I think that he understood that playing with words, with ideas, with characters in opposition—brainstorming as he wrote—that was the key to writing well.
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[W]hen you’re writing, you very often have a bunch of characters in conflict, but as you begin to write, you find that one of them feels more fascinating to you, more genuine and real than the others.
New writers will often complain at that point that a secondary character has “taken over” the story, yet I sometimes wonder if they haven’t really just “found” the true story, the one that feels deepest and most important to them. Many times I’ve found that the author in such cases is writing about a heroic character that is larger than life. The protagonist feels hokey and shallow. It’s when the writer begins exploring a minor character that the tale comes to life for them.
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So as you play, you begin to discover the story that you most want to tell. Characters come alive, and you find yourself envisioning scenes that you never intended to include in your tale. Fresh new themes suggest themselves, and that requires even further departure from your original plans.
In short, it is not until we begin playing in the woods of our subconscious that we can find ourselves lost in them.
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The subconscious mind, which resides in the right hemisphere of the brain in most people, spends a great deal of time trying to make sense of emotional issues. It’s constantly trying to help us resolve issues related to frightening images, powerful sexual urges, or unkind words. It tries to alert us to dangers that the conscious mind is too preoccupied to deal with. That’s what happens in humans. We have two brains connected with a little bundle of fibers, and so each of the brains works somewhat independently. As artists, we’re trying to tap into the reservoir of wisdom locked in the creative part of our mind. But that can’t happen if we’re feeling stressed, if our subconscious is trying to deal with other issues. If it’s already working overtime, you’re not going to be able to get much out of it.
Link to the rest at David Farland