Quieting the Critical Mind

Hi Folks,

Following on the tail of Trusting Your Subconscious Mind, this suits.

I’ve talked before about writing off into the dark. In fact, my whole Daily Journal is based on that method of writing, piggybacked on the writer’s determination to follow Heinlein’s Rules. I even teach an Audio Course on Writing Off Into the Dark. Click the link and scroll down to Course 12.

But one subtopic is sorely lacking any direct instruction that I can find, even my own. Possibly because it’s a highly personal problem that must be solved by each writer for himself or herself: How to Quiet the Conscious, Critical Mind.

I could tell you how I do it, but that might or might not work for you. At least sometimes I tell my critical, conscious mind (yes, aloud) to get away from me, leave me alone, go sit in that corner over there until I’m finished writing.

And once you’ve sent your grownup, responsible, control-freak conscious mind packing? Be a two year old, for goodness’ sake! Just tell a story! Run and play and enjoy yourself!

Now, writing off into the dark merely means writing without an outline. But a big part of that (and the reason practitioners don’t use an outline) is learning to trust your subconscious. Learning to let go and turn off your English teacher’s voice in your head.

I call it the Golden Bradbury Rule, and I’m paraphrasing: If you don’t surprise yourself, how can you possibly hope to surprise the reader?

A correspondent emailedme to ask how to shut off the critical voice. I suppose I could have just said something like, “The same way you did before” (grin) but I didn’t want to be flip.

The thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever heard any direct instruction regarding HOW to turn off critical voice, but there are a lot of hints at how to do so in all the other advice. Here are some of those hints:

  • Just let go of control and trust your subconscious. Don’t consciously construct sentences etc. You know how to do that without thinking about it, so Just Write.
  • Don’t “direct” your characters as the almighty writer on high. Get down in the trenches and run through the story with them. Be the recorder. Describe the setting(s) they’re running through and write down what they say and do.
  • Don’t Think. Just write. Again, if you don’t surprise yourself as a writer, how can you hope to surprise the reader?

When he was asked how he wrote Dandelion Wine, Bradbury responded that he wrote it the same way he wrote pretty much all of his stories and novels. He sat down at the keyboard, put his fingers on the keys, and just wrote whatever came.

And that is perhaps the best advice on how to quiet the critical mind. Put your fingers on the keyboard and just write what comes. When you get stuck, just write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence.

Now, how do YOU relinquish control and just enjoy the story as you’re writing it? How do YOU quiet your critical mind?

Happy writing,

Harvey

2 thoughts on “Quieting the Critical Mind

  1. I too, have become a huge proponent of Writing Into the Dark. The biggest stumbling block I have is wondering if the reader is going to like what I’m writing. Once I banish that fictitious reader from my mind and say (out loud as well)” I really don’t give a s**t if readers will like this story or not.” then my mind seems to relax and off I happily go into the trenches.

    • That’s exactly it. And you already know the answer too. Some readers (most) will like what you write. A few will absolutely love it, and a few won’t like it because it isn’t to their taste. So just write and let them sort it out.

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