Subconscious of Your Writing Part 2 by Ken La Salle

Author Ken La Salle
Author Ken La Salle

This is the second part of my piece on subconscious writing. In Part One, I discussed outlining versus what some call “pantsing.” (Kat Brooks explained this to me as “writing by the seat of your pants,” which I believe explains it quite well.) But what happens after you’ve begun whatever it is you’re writing? How does subconscious writing play a part then?

I think one of the things that makes subconscious writing so difficult to explain is the whole “subconscious” part of it. So, please bear with me as I try to explain what I mean.

As I wrote my last novel, I had no clear idea what I was trying to say. I had started it with a specific image in mind. But that image must have stirred connections in my mind because I found it so filled with consequence that the image was truly just the starting point.

Elements of the story began to come out of me and I trusted them. When I wrote about the minutiae in the father’s house, for instance, I didn’t question it. I didn’t try to change it into what I thought it should be. I let it be what it was. Only later did I realize that it made perfect sense – that the very type of clutter I had written about was indicative of the type of person the father was.

That’s one of the key aspects to subconscious writing. As it turns out, you know more about the story than you realize. I think that must be what draws us to writing stories to begin with, because of the profound understanding we have of them deep down within us.

Now, if I was to jot all of these things down, I would find them dry and forced. I feel intuitively, somehow, that the act of discovering them in the process gives them life.

Here’s another aspect: during the process of writing another book, this one the tale of a deranged killer, I found myself making him do things I really didn’t understand. These things were tell-tale signs, clues that identified him as the murderer. Only later did I find out that these clues identified the type of mental derangement that made him a killer to begin with. I had no idea I was doing that but it worked very well.

How does this happen? I’m guessing that at some point in the past I read something with this information in it. I held on to it deep within the craggy recesses of my brain only to dredge it up later when I wasn’t looking, when I wasn’t actually consciously thinking of it.

Now, I should be clear that these sorts of developments, this kind of subconscious help did not come naturally or immediately. I’ve been writing for well over twenty years and, when I started, more often than not it came out a mess.

But here’s what I think. I think all writing must be subconscious to some extent. Nobody really understands what drives them to write what they do – and we are all driven to write something. Some of us try to control these drives more than others. And I guess that there are probably corollaries to this in other art forms: painters who pencil first, musicians who improvise more than others, sculptors who… well, whatever they do.

I find myself fascinated by the benefit of a well-developed subconscious. I speak with my wife about my process, which often involved cutting a vein and watching it bleed, and she just can’t begin to fathom what I’m talking about. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Mind you, I look at guys who rebuild cars or architects or sculptors… and I am just as baffled. I’ve devoted so much energy into the mystery of my art, that I’ve distanced myself from so much else in the world, which is often the case.

The beauty of art, it seems to me, lies in its mystery. Some of us like to solve the mystery, better to manipulate it to their ends, while others (like me) like nothing more than to dive into its inky depths and let it swallow us whole.

Upon resurfacing, the world is new.

Author and playwright, Ken La Salle has brought his shows to stages from Los Angeles to New York to San Francisco. His passion is intense humor, meaningful drama, and finding answers to the questions that define our lives. You can find his books on Amazon and Smashwords and all major etailers. His philosophical memoir, Climbing Maya, was recently published by Solstice Publishing as an ebook and in paperback. You can follow Ken’s writing career on his website at and see his books on his Author’s Page.

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9 thoughts on “Subconscious of Your Writing Part 2 by Ken La Salle”

  1. Great post. Tim reminded of Krista’s post from — yesterday? — about how every story has already been written. Except it hasn’t, because we bring our own subconscious tweaks to them. That’s what makes it fresh.

  2. I understand perfectly, Ken, and you’re right: we are writers because we have no other choice; however, I would take it one step further into the creative unconscious. From first putting words together to form a story, more years ago than I care to remember, I’ve experienced that, almost, feeling like a conduit, sensation; never more so than writing my last book when I was literally woken, repeatedly, in the night by various characters to tell their story.

    Great post, Ken.

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