I was talking to another writer the other day about the differences between writing on a computer versus long hand. We agreed how much easier it is to edit on the computer, but we couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or not. We both found that computers make it difficult to stick with an ancient writing truth that I formulate as “Don’t edit till you’re finished writing because even if you’re not, you’ll be finished writing.”
Maybe it’s the underlined typos calling to me. Maybe it’s just too difficult to bear the small changes that cry out to me in the glaring screen light, as I read over what I’ve written. The moment my hand jumps from the keyboard to the mouse or pad; once I double click or tap; highlight and delete; I’m in edit mode and the writing magic is gone. The subtle connection to my muse is lost in the din of coarser judgments. There’s nothing left to do except edit what’s on the screen in hopes of finding a way back to the muse’s voice hidden in the weeds of the words.
Writing and editing are two different animals. They use different parts of the brain. When it comes to first drafts, they can’t co-exist.
Writing is a creative. Editing is critical thinking. It applies rules and practical judgments and is the nemesis of creativity. At birth (or is it conception?), any successful creative project needs to begin free from critical thinking. That is true for brainstorming sessions as well, whether it is for product development, marketing campaigns, advertising concepts, long or short-range strategies or your next presentation.
That is why coaches demand “Yes Only” zones when leading group creative sessions. Here no criticism is allowed, no one can demand you “be practical”. Any negativity is a no no and any critic, a persona non-gratis.
It’s amazing how difficult that can be for some people, especially in our culture of constant comparisons, competition and the need to be right. (Am I right or what?) It’s second nature to us and often has to be unlearned or at least tamed.
And, while being non-judgmental is hard to do in a group, for many people it is even harder to do on their own. Recognizing the voice of the critic in a crowd of people is easy. Recognizing and silencing the inner critic is a HUGE challenge. It takes practice or a coach.
Here’s an idea to help ensure your creative juices keep flowing.
Make your writing sessions “Mouse/Pad Free” zones. Open your document, click your cursor to the top of the page, then lock your track pad and or mouse in a drawer and leave it there. Then type away. It may seem odd at first but you’ll get used to it. You’ll also get to see your inner critic throw tantrums before finally settling down.
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what going "Mouse/Pad-free" was like for you.
Ever make a decision that jeopardized a project or goal? Have you trusted the wrong people even when you knew better? Do you hesitate to take risks when you know you should or visa versa? Is your “drive time” spent justifying how you reacted to a loved one, decisions you made or why you let an opportunity slip through your fingers? If so, you may need to have a chat with your subconscious.
It’s hard to believe but the latest science is telling us that human beings make decisions without the participation of our conscious minds. Thanks to MRI brain scans, scientists can now track brain activity in real time, making it possible to identify the actual moment the brain recognizes an image or makes a decision. In both cases, that moment takes place before the conscious mind shows it is even aware of what’s taking place.
This research is leading scientists to redefine the role the subconscious plays in our lives. (Check out: Subliminal: How your Unconscious Mind Rules your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow; Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman and Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist by Christof Koch.)
While the science is still young, it seems to be clear we are more complex than we know and the subconscious is in charge! According to the new studies, the only role the conscious mind has in the decision-making process is coming up with an explanation for why we made the choice we did... no matter how badly it turned out.
Think of the unconscious mind as having two parts. The first might be said to be hardwired in the body, the source of our basic instincts and nearly identical in all human beings. It regulates the body’s basic functioning, mostly following the blueprint of our DNA. Programed over 2.5 million years, it guides us in ways that were first determined back when we lived in packs; hunted and foraged.
The other part of the subconscious mind is much more individualized. It is shaped by (and remembers in minute detail) all our experiences. Its development begins as we begin to take in sensory information in the womb. After birth, as we grow, our brains learn how to translate the senses of sight, smell, sound, and touch into labeled forms such as Mama, Dada, food and a three dimensional world that surrounds us. The data seem to indicate that we are predisposed to subconsciously align our view of the world with the perceptions of the people around us. Yet moments of strong emption as frequent as harsh judgments and as random as bee stings have a huge impact on how our view is shaped. The result is that our views of the world are uniquely subjective and often contradicting.
It’s interesting stuff. But what’s it mean to us? Probably not much if you’re satisfied with your life choices, your health, stress levels, relationships, your circle of friends, career and self-image.
However, most of us, have aspects of our lives where we feel stuck in a maze endlessly winding up in the same circumstances and don’t know why or what to do. In that case, becoming aware of individual decision-making process seems like a no-brainer.
Having a coach can be a big help for several reasons.
A coach demands that clients clearly assess their lives, set clearly defined goals and a detailed measurable plan of action to achieve them. This process takes place in an open and supportive environment where the coach’s “active listening” takes in, as much as possible, the whole of the client body, mind and feeling. Often this leads to a shift in the session’s focus from the planning and practical to an exploration of the inner landscape. Questions like, “What does success look like?" leads to “How does it feel to describe it?” or “What’s holding you back?” can lead to “ah ha” moments where unconscious attitudes and impulses, like bumps in the road are recognized; false turns and detours are seen but not taken.
Other times through the appearance of the innate emotional intelligence that lives in all of us, new insights appear freeing us from limiting perceptions, shedding light on short cuts that speed progress, connection to new found confidence or leading to transformational insights that change the vision completely.
Just the awareness of these unconscious elements begins to change the subconscious maze that keeps us tangled in the past and blind to new possibilities. Over time, we can become more aware of the movements within, recognizing the voices of old judgments, the rigidity of repeated patterns and the sense of potential that comes when one experiences the present unencumbered.
All of this can lead to an even greater question about the possibility of changing our level of consciousness.