My Subconscious: This Creative Writer’s Best Friend

I’ve written before about how our subconscious minds play a critical role in our creative process. That breakthrough insight you received recently in the shower? That was your subconscious, taking advantage of the fact that you were free from distraction (including our everpresent smartphones).

psychology-1580252_640For the past quarter-century or so, I’ve proactively asked my subconscious to work out knotty problems I’m having with my creative writing, and it almost always delivers. (I’ve written recommended steps you can take to do the same.)

This morning I had a unique experience with my subconscious. For longer than I can remember, if I know I plan to do some creative writing when I wake up in the morning, my ever-thoughtful subconscious wakes me up, exactly one minute before my alarm. If the alarm is set for 6 a.m. (as it was today) I’m awakened at 5:59 am. If I set it for 5:30? You guessed it, 5:29. My wife loves it because I can then turn the alarm off before it wakes her up, and I appreciate the kick in the pants to get up and go to work.

So… I was dreaming last night. I rarely remember my dreams, and I think now I know why. The one I was in was phenomenally banal, so I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say I was standing on a street corner, waiting for someone. I saw him pulling up to the curb. Suddenly, to my surprise, I raised my hand to him, called out “Sorry, I’ve got to go!” and then flew up into the sky, Superman-style. The next moment I was awake in bed. I put on my glasses, looked over at my alarm clock, and saw it was 5:59 am.

It turns out that even if I am in REM sleep, my subconscious is determined to make sure I get to work.

The action by my subconscious paid off. I spent about an hour working on my WIP–an urban speculative novel with the working title THE UNMOVING STARS–and officially reached the halfway point of the 2nd draft.

Oh, and I wrote the first draft of this blog post in my head while showering.

10 thoughts on “My Subconscious: This Creative Writer’s Best Friend

  1. Nowadays, during sleeping and showering is often the only time people get time for their subconscious to go to work for them. Driving in the car can be a good time for that too. I used to listen to the news or a podcast during my commute, but after a while I gave that up so that I could just have a quiet, drifting mind during that time. I no longer have a commute, but I’ve found that long walks have the same effect. When I used to go for regular long walks, I’d have to pull out a notebook and download all my ideas when I got home. I’m looking forward to warmer weather so I’ll feel more inclined to do that again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sam

      Hi Sue.

      i would just like to say that your reply really inspires me to take those long walks and let my mind do the work. I am really motivated. i am really new to creative writing and i would like to learn so much more. thank you!


      1. Sue Spencer Mitchell

        Glad my comment was helpful to you, Sam. Usually it takes about 15 minutes of walking before I fall into that trance-like state where my mind really starts going to work on ideas.


  2. Behind the Story

    Showering is one of my most creative times. It’s a good excuse for taking a long shower.

    I’ve never tried to encourage waking up a minute early on days when I have creative work to do. It sounds like a good idea to subconsciously prepare.


    1. So a confession: I never asked my subconscious to wake me up before my alarm. It just started doing it on its own maybe fifteen years ago or so. My wife actually finds it a bit creepy! 🙂 I just accept it, but still program an alarm as a backup. This am I knew the first thing on my morning agenda was taking my car in to the dealership for maintenance, and not surprisingly, my subconscious decided to let my alarm do that wake-up. (Once arriving at the dealership, howeve,r I was able to put in about an hour’s worth of work on the WIP.)

      As to long showers, I do love them, but since moving to San Diego I’m trying to be more conscious of water use due to routine droughts here. 😦


  3. Oh I love this blog post! I completely relate. Especially to being awakened bright and early to get started on the current or next project. Unlike you, I tend to have many dreams I remember, ranging from boring to bizarre. I love it. I try to pick apart the dream to see if I am missing something in my life, or, more often, if I can use it in my writing. As for the dreams of flying, these tend to be my favorite, even when they are wickedly evil. Most of my dreams about flying in an aircraft are interrupted by the oncoming doom of a crash. I don’t care, in my dreams I’m airborne. The more pleasant dreams that I’m in the air, free from restriction, I venture through my surroundings enjoying the world below me. Though I love these dreams, I find them disappointing when I wake because their isn’t much excitement other than the freedom of flight. Thank you for sharing this post. It spoke to me.


    1. I’m glad you liked the post! Your dream life sounds quite vivid. I can’t say I “see” a lot of my writing insights in dreams per se, but I did just find myself in a scene with one of my novel-in-progress characters last night, as rewrote the scene this morning as a result.


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