Writing and the dark subconscious

Writing during lockdown

Writing and the dark subconscious

Every morning now I wake after dreaming of isolation. It makes it hard to write.

It’s as if there’s a place in my subconscious that has gone very dark and is holding all the fears I don’t confront during the day.

I force myself to linger in that half-state to capture a fragment and make sense of it, but there’s nothing to catch; just a feeling of unease, an unexplained fear. I have never been able to step into my dreams and haul out a story and I am suspicious of those who say they can. All I can ever bring across that barrier are moods and shots of disassociated things, like photographs of a past I no longer remember. I haven’t ever drunk so much I don’t remember what happened the night before, but it must be a post-dream feeling: waking up on someone’s sofa, remembering scrambling noises, a cat rubbing and mewing to be fed, crowds of people gathered before a high fence, something bad.

If I do collect such fragments they don’t stay, all I remember is the remembering of them and even that disappears faster than a memory should. The subconscious is an untamed thing, you can’t catch it. This morning, fading already,  there were three people together in a house in the country. There was no one else and they’d been there for a long, long time. That’s all. It’s gone now.

The thing is, that place is where my imagination also lives, down under the barrier of rational thought (or what passes for rational with me). And so when I sit at the desk to write my novel – chapter six today, a ship appears on the horizon – there is nothing in my subconscious to drive the story forward. Usually a sleep or a run or a crossword is as good for me as a trip to the well for the thirsty and I return with a bucket full of ideas to spill onto the page. But these days when I throw the story into my subconscious for a swim it comes up dripping with coronavirus. It seems there is no space for anything else.

Thing is, I’m having a fine isolation. If I never read the news I’d say this has been a very happy holiday. As a writer I have a fairly solitary work day anyway and in the evenings now we have a bubble full of lovely young people who are not allowed to leave us and go out to the pub but who must stay home to socialise with the olds. And we’ve been told we can be heroes just by staying home and letting others sort the whole thing out. It helps no one if we mope around and don’t make the best of it, so we are allowing happiness and good living here and are enjoying the lovely autumn evenings; joining the small groups strolling down empty roads, chatting B2B (bubble to bubble).

Like most, we have friends and family all over the world and understand, as much as we can, the challenges lockdown has and will bring to all of us, some with horrible consequences. Compassion and empathy don’t disappear because we cannot be present. It’s just the fear and the hand-wringing and angst are being pushed below the barrier to enable daytime cheer and are solidifying into a nasty mass that fills my subconscious, blocking the flow of every other emotion I need to draw on to write my novel.  And my dreams are swimming through those dark places every night.

Kia kaha. Stay well, acknowledge your subconscious fears, and be happy whenever you can.

Author: Cristina Sanders Blog

Novelist, trail runner, book reviewer and blogger.

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