Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Key Step in Creative Writing

The one few writers are ever taught, because it's little understood and even less believed. Yet, nothing great was ever accomplished without it.

From the remarkable 1939 book, "A Technique for Producing Ideas" by James Webb Young. It's 'Step Three' in the five-step process. From a summary on the blog Brain Pickings:

Step 3: Unconscious Processing
In his third stage of the creative process, Young stresses the importance of making absolutely “no effort of a direct nature”.  It is important to realize that this is just as definite and just as necessary a stage in the process as the two preceding ones. What you have to do at this time, apparently, is to turn the problem over to your unconscious mind and let it work while you sleep.  […]  [W]hen you reach this third stage in the production of an idea, drop the problem completely and turn to whatever stimulates your imagination and emotions. Listen to music, go to the theater or movies, read poetry or a detective story.

This is an observation I have heard over and over again, most recently from writer/comedian Steve Martin.
The book may be bought from the link above - or download a free pdf (it's public domain) at this link.


  1. I've left a spot in my morning schedule for years to try and preserve some of what I get overnight. There's been times when it's been a couple hours worth. We're remarkable creatures.

  2. Yes indeed. You really should follow this link to an earlier post which goes more in-depth on the subject and links to still others who have observed this phenomenon and swear by it: