Daily Archives: November 7, 2008

Getting Schooled: Making sense(s)

Despite what I wrote yesterday, Butler really wants to be your friend. He does! He loves you!

Butler’s premise is this: to create art, we must write from the unconscious. We cannot think–as in analytical thought. We have to turn off that self-conscious inner voice that’s going all the time.

Do you narrate your own life? Well, stop it.

It sounds easy, tapping into the unconscious, but according to Butler, not so much. He says:

If the artist sees the chaos of experience and feels order behind it and creates objects to express that order, surely that is reassuring, right? Well, at some point, maybe. But what do you have to do first? And why is it so hard? This is why-and this is why virtually all inexperienced writers end up in their heads instead of the unconscious: because the unconscious is scary as hell. It is hell for many of us.

So, the first stop on our Butler tour was boot camp. Now we’re in hell. Nice.

But why is writing from the unconscious so important? Well, according to Butler, you access your sensual memories rather than your literal ones that way.

This is why when you write something from literal memory no one believes it, even though you protest, “But it really happened!”

Write a big honking lie, but write from the unconscious, from emotion and the senses, and everyone thinks it’s true to life.

Butler’s deal with the senses: Emotions are experienced in the senses and therefore are best expressed in fiction through the senses. He’s got five for you:

  • Sensual reaction: inside our body, such as body temperature, heartbeat, throwing up a little in your mouth, and so on.
  • Sensual response: what we send outside our body: posture, gestures, facial tics. Any YouTube of the presidential debates would make an excellent primer for this.
  • Experiences of emotion: flashes from the past, not so much analysis as impressions, waking dreams.
  • Flashes of the future: essentially anticipation, yearning (more on yearning later; Butler is big on yearning).
  • Sensual selectivity: we have to select which senses to convey in a story, since at any one time, we experience thousands of sensual cues. In other words, we don’t want the kitchen sink of details flooding our stories. How do you pick which ones to convey? Well, by emotion, of course.

Do you feel like we’ve just traveled around in a big circle? I think maybe yes. But that’s okay, it’s gets us ready for our trip into the (twilight) zone. More on that later.


Filed under Getting Schooled, Writing