“So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.”
The subconscious is a funny thing. We’ve talked a lot here at Prompt & Circumstance about the inherent mysteriousness of writing, the way when we sit down to write, words seem to appear on a page as if they always existed there. Sometimes this comes easily, and sometimes it only comes after hours of toil and work. Sometimes, after hours of toil and hard work, the right words pour out unexpectedly in an unthinking moment after we’ve declared finding them a lost cause. The way our unthinking mind processes what we experience and think and feel into what we ultimately write can at times, no matter how much of the process we try to consciously engineer, seem like an extra person typing away in another room, only showing us their work once they’ve gotten a draft together. Oftentimes, we have no idea what they’re doing in there while they work–chain smoking? mediating? ritual sacrifice?–but we’re often bewildered and amazed at what they present us with.
The winners of Prompt & Circumstance’s Spring 2014 contest, who comprise the contributors for Issue 3, very much deal in the barriers between consciousness and subconsciousness, both in their work and how they approach it. From one of our Six Words prompts, Lavina Blossom weaves a poem about a recurring dream that is both ethereal and immediate, intensely true-feeling and yet shrouded in mystery, exploring what it means to try to find meaning in dreams, and to embrace their enigma. Simon Barth and Callie Leuck, in telling us about their writing processes, also touch on this element of unconscious drive and attention. One talks about the fluctuating cycles of a writer, knowing a piece is done when the voice inside oneself shouting at us to write quiets down enough to let one resume normal life, steadily collecting enough inspiration for the “write! write!” voice to start shouting again. The other explores the difficulties we often have with writing dialogue that sounds natural and true to life, attempting to tap into the way our thoughts actually flow in conversation in ways that may not seem immediately apparent when trying to create the action and reaction sequences of people talking. In her story, Kelly Ann Jacobson touches on the surreality of finding certain facts you always assumed were true to be false and trying to ascertain the motivations behind another’s actions–what in their heart and mind drove them to do seemingly inexplicable things. And the way our contest’s first place winner, Robbi Nester, transforms a grotesque, carnal scene into something holy and reverent is nothing short of dream-like, a flow of images into one another that we might encounter when our subconscious mind is free to make associations outside the literal perception of our eyes.
Come with us, dear readers. Dive into something a little strange and a little off-kilter. Embrace something vaguely illogical. Maybe you’ll come out the other side with ideas whose origins you can’t quite place, but that all the same, feel intimately familiar to a person somewhere deep inside you, living in a place largely forgotten about while taxes and grocery shopping dominate your attention.
Shenan & Brandi