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Image: coloful surrealistic human head in profile with butterlies inside, text reads "Listening and Following"


If you listen to your own voice unknown friends will come and find you.   –Carl Jung

The Voices in My Head

People often ask me where my ideas come from. My usual response is “from listening to the voices in my head.”

My fiction is very character-driven. Characters get inside my brain and nag me until I tell their stories. So I do. I start there and find the story, and the plot, along the way. Yes, I have to refine the plot in revision, but the character arc tends to come with the journey.

In truth, the real answer is the same as other creators, artists, and discoverers. Ideas come from that vast roiling part of the brain known as the subconscious. Listening to the voices inside my head, I am really listening to the truths that resonate with me. The truth of personal experience. My authentic inner voice. Following where that voice leads brings me to a place of deeper understanding and allows me to create deeply layered stories, and do so in an original way.

At the 2014 SCBWI annual summer conference in Los Angeles, I attended a session by Meg Rosoff where she talked about this.

Meg talked about how the heart and soul of a story come out of the subconscious and how the more we access the subconscious the more we widen the path to reach it.

I agree.

Gaining Access

The challenge for most is figuring out the best way to do that. For every individual, the access to that path will be different. Some find it through meditative contemplation, others by taking a walk or jogging in the park, and some in the bath or the shower.

For me, it’s typically found by getting away from the desktop, unplugging from the internet, and sitting in my living room writing on my laptop. I then enter my world by placing my characters in situations and tossing in some conflict. This is a form of discovery writing that has always worked for me.

Whether I am in full-on discovery writing mode or writing from a general outline, giving my characters a certain level of free rein is a way for me to allow my subconscious mind to take the lead, widening my access to the inner truth that drives me to write about these characters in the first place. Listening and following to hear my authentic voice.

I believe this access into the subconscious is one key to producing a unique voice and personality for the story. How we see the world, whether we are filtering it through a character lens or not, is unique to who we are and what we believe. Accessing that inner subconscious truth, getting deep into the core of who we are, colors the prose we produce, putting our mental stamp on it.

Letting the Inner Voice Speak

Just as no two fingerprints are alike, no two brains are the same, no two people think exactly the same way about everything.

So, it is inherent for us as writers to allow ourselves access into that deep inner place where we truly exist as our authentic selves. Find your path, widen your access, and let yourself in, follow your truth, listen to your inner voice, then let it speak out.

Your readers will thank you for it.


*This blog post was substantially revised from a previous version posted in 2014 on my now-retired website.



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