How to Train Your Inspiration Part 2 – Creative Writing
Let’s get some facts out in the open:
- Your imagination is always on. And it’s infinite. Seriously.
- Any “writer’s block” was invented and can be released. Use the assignments in Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming A Writer” and preferably treat this book as a course, which it was designed to be. (See free course here – available for a limited time.)
- Your abilities are unlimited. You can Be and Have anything and everything you can dream of. (See J. B. Jones’ “If You Can Count to Four…” and Claude M. Bristol’s “Magic of Believing.”)
You have to do a thorough study of the books and material dealing with the subject of “subconscious” to start understanding your own imagination. Frankly, there hasn’t been a definitive Western study of this area. Ever. Lots of studies come close. You’ll have to go back to the oldest Huna studies to come really close. But that means you’re going to get a spiritual answer, not some “scientific” study or psycho-babble. (See the books mentioned above for a start.)
Inspiration has day-dreaming as part of it.
Consider this excerpt from Serge Kahili King’s “Mastering Your Hidden Self”:
Actually, we all dream all the time. I am not speaking about the idea that this outer life is but a dream, though a very good case could be made for that. What I mean is that dreams – inner experiences both “straight” and strange – are occurring all the time just beneath our usual waking consciousness. Most people have been conditioned not to pay attention to them. But if you just sit down, close your eyes, and watch what happens, you will experience a dream of some kind, even while you are wide awake. It may happen immediately or it may take awhile, depending on your present State and previous conditioning. But dream you surely will. There is even good reason to believe that frequent recourse to “waking dreaming” will lessen the need for “sleep dreaming.” Thomas Edison, for instance, used to take about seventeen very brief naps a day and only needed three hours of sleep at night. He didn’t take the naps to sleep or rest but purposely to dream.
The title for that book has to do with enabling your subconscious (Dorothea Brande referred to this as the Unconscious) which is where your Imagination comes from.
Once you have freed your Imagination to soar, it will connect with sources that are impossible for you to contact or connect with. Just because that is that way things are set up.
The model roughly holds that that you have your Conscious mind where you do all the reasoning, your Subconscious Mind which brings you solutions and intuition and inspired thoughts, and the Superconscious Mind that connects to all the universe around us on a spiritual level. The classic model has your subconscious being the channel between your Conscious Mind and the Superconscious. This model repeats often enough with different writers centuries apart (who all pulled from different sources) to give us a working premise.
Having worked with this for years, the idea of three minds is more probably a metaphor (as the kahuna Daddy Bray used to say.) Having your mind arbitrarily split into three parts enables you to deal with accessing and improving each part.
But you don’t have to take it this deep. All you have to know is that it’s possible to train your inspiration.
It’s Better to Know the Mind (Self-Help/Self-Improvement Classics)
These can be traced to the oldest surviving philosophy on this planet, which is currently called “Huna.” It survived by being embedded in one of the languages of the Hawaiian Islands. And since other islands have different dialects, this philosophy isn’t exact. What we know of it comes from Dr. Serge Kahili King, and Max Freedom Long, both of whom have written extensively on the subject. (See collected works in our Library.)
Four Techniques of Creative Revolution
Without repeating Nightingale’s fascinating approach to generating creative thoughts, here’s his shorthand:
Here’s the link: Four Techniques for Creative Revolution (Note: this contains audio – a plus.)
Lost in Your Own World
The trick to having unlimited imagination is being responsible for creating your universe the way you want it. People who don’t do this consider themselves failure and hide behind various mental and mentally-induced physical illnesses. These are people who are always critical, the “bucket crabs” that keep anyone from excelling around them. Unfortunately, this is also the result of believing in Conventional Wisdom. You’ll note this where they have put their faith in Science and mechanical explanations for the world around them. However, the most powerful laws and rules have to do with the creative aspects of love, and imagination.
As you see that “we become what we think about” and “as a man believeth in his heart so is he” then the world will show up around you that you’ve always dreamed of.
To the degree you consider that someone else has put this universe around you, then you are effect of that same thought and are powerless to that degree.
This predicts that one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is to write daily, and write as imaginatively as possible. Write the most ideal protagonists (heroes) you can imagine, and put them through various conflicts that they resolve. All your romances have a “happily every after” conclusions and never result in tragic scenes. Mysteries are resolved and hazards revealed. Villains are vanquished and can have their own transformation for good. (The evil Darth Vader returning to Anakin Skywalker goodness.)
Your cornerstone is concrete faith in your own abilities to imagine, that your thoughts create your world. If you don’t like the result, then change your thoughts and beliefs. If you story isn’t turning out the way you want it, then simply edit it into the results you want.
Where the Mind Exists
Our best guess right now is “outside of time and space.”
It’s only a “guess” right now, as we live in this time and space. A very concrete existence according to our Science boys.
For all their work in Psychology and Psychiatry (and their weird-fiction offshoot, $cientology) these experts haven’t come up with anything that really works. Because they all deal with fictional ideas as fact. Scientists tried to only deal with the mechanical, and failed. They equated the mind to the the brain. And the brain isn’t really where the mind sits. Sure, if you wreck a person’s brain, then they can’t communicate well with the rest of our physical existence. But they also haven’t come up with any decent way of restoring or regrowing a brain.
Hubbard’s corporate cult centered on the concept of the spirit being separate from the body, but defined the mind into two parts as “reactive” and “analytical.” Theoretically, you could “erase” the reactive mind. However, when you study their current corporate messes, you’ll see that their “enlightened” leaders and staff aren’t acting very analytically in how they treat each other. Working with the idea of a spiritual basis for the mind is probably closer, though.
Probably the most workable definition of the brain’s function came from Napoleon Hill, who concluded in his “Think and Grow Rich” that the brain was really closer to an antenna for giving and receiving data. He concluded this from his work with Edison and Dr. Elmer Gates, who were able to pull their inspiration from ethereal sources through alternative methods. They learned how to harness their imagination and focus it onto the problems at hand. (See Chapters 11 and 13 of his book.)
If the mind isn’t located in the brain, then where is it? Technically, for our use as writers, we don’t really need to know. Just diving into this area gets you into messes that can’t be easily proved, other than by your own faith and beliefs.
Why Science Gets It Right Only One-Fourth of the Time
As a sidebar, the purest approach to analyzing anything is from Huna. There, it’s held that there are four ways to analyse the same data:
- objective (what Science uses exclusively – what happened and how),
- subjective (how you feel about what happened, personally),
- symbolic (what that incident means to you), and
- holistic (how the incident that happened fits in with everything else you know.)
Science throws out anything spiritual, as it tends to invalidate their “laws.” And so they have many situations that cannot be explained. In psychology, they have to lump many things into the “placebo effect” where a person’s belief can heal without the actual medicine being present. Further out than this is more ancient Chinese and other healing arts, where the body is considered a spiritual construct of the person, and can be healed by non-physical means of sorting out the energy flows the person created around the injured body part.
Just consider this when you work to understand and train your own imagination.
How to Find Your Own Imagination
I was watching a video by Dean Wesley Smith, who was pointing to various parts of his head when defining how the subconscious and conscious work to help you write a book. Knowing what neurons fire in the brain when you write a book don’t actually help you write it. People were writing books successfully long before there was any of this brain-science around. Centuries and eons ago. Like Plato and the writers before him. Storytelling never depended on neuron knowledge to get it’s job done. Shakespeare had no definite clue where he got his ideas from, only that he did. Some of the best classics were written when the popular explanation was that they came from the “æther.” Or when they were religious in origin.
Smith covers that there are really two minds you work with – your writing mind and your editing mind. Your editor-mind works to make everything perfect, but doesn’t write well. Your writer-mind does the work of giving you the raw story from nothing into something. Brande holds that both minds work in sync to produce your finished works.
Most English classes teach to deal only with the editing mind. That just cripples your writer-mind.
The challenge is to work with your writer-mind and keep your editor-mind at bay until it’s needed.
Steven Pressfield covers that idea extensively in his “War of Art”, but talks in his term of “Resistance”. Dorothea Brande in her “Becoming a Writer” (see book, course) also took up similar ideas to Smith, calling the parts conscious and unconscious. Reviews of her work said that she was way ahead of later developments in right-brain/left-brain function. But that takes us into brain-science instead of creative writing.
The only useful “scientific” material I’ve found in this area was from José Silva who found that creative thinking occurred when a person was producing alpha wavelengths. His last work showed that when a person producing delta wavelengths, the person was most creative (other than during sleep, which are theta wavelenths.) Edison used to take as many as 14 naps a day to get his inspiration. He would do this with steel balls held in one hand above a metal pan on the floor. When he relaxed so much that the balls fell into the pan, he would wake up and then start applying whatever he had in his mind to the problem at hand. Essentially, he would relax into delta wavelengths and then keep himself from going completely asleep (theta).
Dr. Elmer Gates used a similar technique, of sitting in a completely dark room and simply concentrating on the known facts about any problem. When he got the answers, he would turn on a light switch at his fingertips, and then start writing. Often writing the inspiration down would take hours.
Silva worked out simpler ways to train yourself to get into the alpha and delta brainwave states.
By achieving this, you can train yourself to be as creative as you want, turning on your imagination at will. Brande has many practices you can do to break open the flood gates of inspiration. Very simple actions.
The analytical/editing part of your mind works at the beta wavelengths.
Unfortunately, none of our schooling deals with improving your creative thinking. Your schooling has been developed around the ideas of passing tests and earning sheepskins. You are prepared to get and hold jobs. Those jobs don’t require imagination. No small wonder that the bulk of the richest people on this planet either didn’t finish college or never started it.
Using Your Sixth Sense and Dreams to Hatch Your Stories
Hill considered that your creative imagination was actually your “sixth sense.” When you get ideas “out of the blue” is another term for this. J. B. Jones in his “If You Can Count to Four…”, held that your imagination and intuition (out of the blue) was the key way to make your own success.
His is actually a good and useful formula for training your imagination.
A. Get an idea of what you want. In this case, it is a readable story people will like and share with others.
B. Pretend you have already accomplished this. Get the idea of having this already done.
C. Say “yes” or “no” to feedback you are getting. Accept or let go comments and ideas others tell you about what you are doing.
D. Act on your inspiration. Keep a notebook to hand and by your bedside to write down the ideas you get at any moment.
Part of your idea of what you want will be routine production of stories. You can use Brande’s book and others, such as Rachel Aaron’s “From 2K to 10K” in order to find your most productive times. For many people, this is first thing after waking. Brande recommends that you go directly to writing without even talking to anyone else, so that your words will pour out onto the keyboard without dilution or distraction. (She even recommends you brew your coffee and put it into a thermos jug if you feel you need a cup first thing in the am.)
Practically, you’ll find that when you have your imagination properly trained, it will turn on and off like a faucet for you. If not, take a short nap like Edison…
Where Does Editing Come In?
Smith holds that this is a part of your writing process. It’s quite different from re-writing, which is a bad habit that was launched in English classes. You only write and edit, per Smith, never re-write anything. He needed to take seven years to re-train himself after discovering this approach. His breakthrough came from reading a 7-point description from Heinlein telling him this in an article.
This is the way most pulp fiction was written. The short hand:
- Line-edit and proof (preferably someone else)
There is no “drafts” in this. There is no developmental editor. You get better by writing more. Use pen names to build your confidence. Simple. Direct. Prolific.
The point is that your subconscious already knows how to write stories and has an unlimited amount of stories out there for you. You only have to ask, to receive.
Your editing can be part of reviewing your story at the first part of your assigned writing time. Some find this works especially well on longer stories. Start off by going back a thousand words or so and smooth out what you wrote. This then gets you familiar with what you’ve just written and will enable you to be right in the flow of everything again. You’ll know the characters, and the situations they are facing. And you’ll know what you need to write next.
As a side note, Chris Fox writes in his “5,000 Words An Hour” that you can work in sprints and never hit the backspace to correct spelling or grammar or punctuation. It’s just straight-ahead writing. (And a recent interview he said that he personally settled down to about 3200 words-per-hour.) The idea is to disengage your editing mind and let the writing mind soar. Sure, what you wrote is a mess. That’s not the point. You get better and faster by writing. Writing. Not re-writing or editing. Fox himself writes in drafts, but then goes back and simply adds more material to his book, which is all new writing, not re-writing. Then he sends it out to a trusted line-editor. Then proofs and publishes. He’s known for his 21-day novel that continues to sell well. And yes, he learns from every book he writes and publishes.
Can be done. By you. Starting now.
What about Genres, Plots, Structures?
This is why you read books and watch movies. Reading and watching (and even listening to audiobooks) trains your subconscious on what is good fiction and what you need to be writing. (Good fiction you like. Bad fiction you don’t.)
This is where you re-study books that you took right to the end and wanted more. Those are the books that you got an endocrine “rush” from. (See Chris Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey” for explanation.) And if you dissect those stories, you’ll see how they were put together. (Again, Brande has the details on how to dissect in her book/course.)
Once you know the plot structures, you can read between genres with ease. In the first few minutes of any movie, you’ll see what structure the story mainly follows. And then you’ll see the other structures show up. I recently watched a Tom Hanks movie “Inferno” that was a mystery with action in it, and a romantic story arc introduced halfway through. Those are the three main plot structures. (See “The Complete Plotto” by William Walker Cook)
Genre is the specifics of location, time, and conventions. Genre is arbitrary, grouped according to reader expectations. You should be able to pick up any book at random and know within the first paragraph, page or chapter whether it’s worth reading. Once you reject it, then delete it off your reader. Give away the paperback or hardback to charity. When you want to do some re-study, it will be there. Only keep the books you finished to the end and wanted more by that author or in that series. That’s how you will both feed our inspiration and also improve your writing craft.
Imagination Only Gets Better by Practice
Like anything you do. Keep doing it and you’ll find all the shortcuts and become professional at it.
Imagination is infinite. You can combine, rearrange, adapt, and substitute endlessly.
It’s been said over and over that there are no new plots that have never been told, just new re-tellings. New characters, new locations, new dialog. No plagiarism. Let your imagination soar and keep out of other author’s ruts.
Keep going in spite of everything and everyone around you. Write what you are fascinated with, what is most interesting and motivating to you. Set up your life so that you can’t wait to write the next story that wants to “spring fully-armed from your brow.”
Your life becomes pure joy when you let your imagination run free. And if you ever feel down, you have trained your imagination to turn on and give you another story like flipping a switch or turning on a faucet.
Takes a lot of practice.
You may have to un-learn a ton of your training.
Can be done.
The second best time to start is now.
Also published on Medium.