The Illustrated Man

I am currently re-reading The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury.
It’s a book that I recommend to every writer.
It is a collection of masterful short stories held together by an eerie overarching narrative. It’s by turns engaging and disturbing. Something for everyone.

” The sun was gone. Now the first stars were shining and the moon had brightened the fields of grass and wheat. Still the Illustrated man’s pictures glowed like charcoals in the half light, like scattered rubies and emeralds, with Rouault colours and Picasso colours and long pressed out El Greco bodies.
“So people fire me when my pictures move. They don’t like it when violent things happen in my illustrations…”

We don’t talk anymore

No, not you and me.

I’m thinking about the writer and their subconscious.

The funny thing is that everyone has one and we pay it very little attention until it plays up. A little like the hazard warning light on the car.
Are you and your subconscious on speaking terms? If you aren’t then you will struggle to write and eventually grind to a page fearing halt.
Writer’s Block anyone?

So, how do I keep my subconscious happy?

(a) Read – Good stuff in, good stuff out.

(b) Resolve any emotional issues where possible. Forgive the guy next door for throwing the hedge clippings over the fence, forgive your mother for that awkward conversation with her best friend’s daughter, forgive yourself for Chocolate Tuesday.
I am not talking about the huge stuff that needs counselling and a 50 minute hour but life’s irritations. Just let them go. It’s not worth it.
The bird that pooped on your car is feeling better because it pooped and not worse because you are cross about it.

(c) Listen to yourself. If you are struggling to write then there may be an issue with what you are writing. Are you trying to make a character behave in a way that he/she wouldn’t.

(d) Sometimes the subconscious calls a time out because it has something else it wants to say. Leave the piece you are writing and work on a short story. Maybe write a poem or a song. When your subconscious has had its say it will let you work on your current piece.

(e) You are playing Deadline Chicken. Trust me, whichever of you blinks first it won’t be pretty.
Tell yourself that you are not writing the piece. This is not writing the piece, this is just making a list of things I would put into it if I was writing it…which I’m not.
Once you have a basic outline expand it until you have a framework. Then write a little piece for each element of the framework.
Look. Almost a piece of work but not a piece of work.
You should now be able to convince yourself that writing the copy is child’s play. It’s nearly done look.

(f) Problems pass. You won’t always struggle. Everyone struggles. Everyone has blank days and prolific days. People who succeed at writing work on the bad days and don’t sweat it.

Keep the Faith

Writing can be an isolating experience. We throw ourselves into the worlds of our imagination. We lock horns with the intangible. We love and lose, talk of guile and greed. We engage with our internal inquisitor. It can seem a very narcissistic occupation. 

The truth is that the sheer effort of writing well tends to weed out the self important and the showboater. It leaves a honed core of truly dedicated observers. We watch the world. Does that make our opinions more important than those of anyone else? More important? No. Better informed? Perhaps.

Writers are no more important than anyone else in the world. Writers are also no less important than anyone else in the world. We are its voice. So keep ploughing through that draft. Keep papering the wall with your rejections. Keep learning to use the subjunctive. Keep editing. Keep growing.

This is who you are

and it’s good.