Junk Collecting

As a writer, I must remain on reasonably good terms with my “muse” — that playful, imaginary critter inside my brain that digs around in my subconscious and dredges up ideas and possibilities for the stories I write. When I step back on occasion and look at the crazy mish-mash of things he’s come up with, I worry a bit. Obviously my subconscious is a strange and frightening place.

What exactly is the subconscious? In clinical terms, it’s that part of our mind that influences our thoughts and actions without our awareness. It’s often compared to instinct or intuition. Subconscious

I don’t usually think of my subconscious in clinical terms, however. I think of it more as a huge warehouse where my little muse collects tons of junk. He grabs things that catch his attention, shoves them down into this subconscious cellar, and maybe they’ll never be found again. Or maybe someday while my muse is puttering around in search of one thing, he’ll come up with some long-buried and long-forgotten treasure that just happens to be exactly what I need for a new story.

Yes, by the way, my muse is male even though I’m not. Maybe in some crazy way that helps create a balance. Maybe not.

The fact remains that sometimes we find the most incredible things lurking within ourselves. We don’t know where they came from, and we might not know what to do with them, but when we play around with them and consider the possibilities they present, we open ourselves up to new ideas, new ways, new pathways to success and happiness.

As a writer, I spend a great deal of time creating problems, conflicts, and complications for the characters in my stories. Do I enjoy making them suffer? No, of course not. I tell myself that suffering will make them stronger, and maybe it does, but I’m not one who holds the belief that bad things happen in order to teach us lessons. I think bad things happen in life simply because that’s how life works. We get some good, some bad, some laughter, some tears, and it’s up to us to figure out what to do with it all. It’s up to us, too, to figure out what it all means, if, in fact, it has any real meaning.

The worst thing about throwing problems at my characters is I then have to figure out how to solve them so that we can all come to that “happily ever after” that’s so important in romance-writing. Ah, there’s the rub! If I’ve done my job well, I’ve put my characters into situations that have no solutions. I’m asking the impossible of them.

As often as not, I can’t logically figure out answers to the dilemmas in which my characters find themselves. Fortunately, I have a helpful little muse who knows what to do. He trots downstairs to that subconscious cellar, mutters a few words about the mess, and then pulls some crazy hare-brained scheme out of a box like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat.

“Here, try this,” he tells me.

Of course, my muse is imaginary. In other words, he doesn’t really exist, there’s nobody stomping around inside my brain, and thank goodness all that “junk” that’s collected there is imaginary, too. If not, there’d be no place to put it all.

Yet even though it’s imaginary, the muse is real. The subconscious is real. We access it through quiet moments, through stillness, silence, and even through familiar, routine movements — washing dishes, ironing clothes, taking a walk.

We access the subconscious, too, in our dreams each time we sleep. Bits and pieces of life get tossed into that imaginary place, they get shuffled up, re-arranged, and thrown into unmarked boxes. It all gets jumbled up. What a mess!

But out of that mess, from that jumble of mismatched socks and half-baked ideas, the fantastic dreams and the colors swirling through our heads, ideas abound. Solutions to problems! Possibilities to explore! Answers to questions that maybe we haven’t even gotten around to asking ourselves yet.

It’s all there in those hidden realms of the subconscious.

Take time to today to sit and listen to the silence. Speak a few words to your own muse. Let your mind wander, freely exploring all the possibilities you have buried deep within yourself.

A lot of it is junk. Sure. But, oh, the things you can do with it!


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