Thursday, March 21, 2013

Feeding Your Chickens – Subliminal Writing

When I was a boy, my aunt sold fresh eggs out of her country home. I liked accompanying her through the three long, chicken coups, helping to collect eggs and feed the birds. She taught me the connection between feeding hens and having eggs for Easter decorating or meat for family barbeques. I even learned the difference between dry and wet sh . . . well, let’s say she taught me where NOT to step. It was a good education in real life.

“Everything we get from the chickens,” she would say, “begins with proper feeding.”

One of my daughters lives near several small family farms. Recently, during a mother/daughters walk, they came upon some hens and a lady feeding them. My granddaughter got to hand feed chickens for the first time. When I looked at that picture, it dawned on me, feeding chickens is a great metaphor for the subliminal creative process.

If we writers want a steady supply of literary eggs, we have to feed the writing hens. How do we do that?

Humans have a remarkable tool between our ears called subliminal processing. It’s a part of our mind that constantly, even when we sleep, thinks about ideas. It creates those really cool waking-moment epiphanies when problems we struggled with a day before suddenly become clear. And, this subconscious processor never stops. It solves issues long after conscious thought gives up. Those Eureka-moments, when the thrill of discovery pops out seemingly from nowhere, that’s our subliminal mind at work.

How would you like to influence the output of your subliminal mind?

You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute, Dean. You just told me this is a subconscious thing. How can I manage to control something over which I have no control?”

The answer? Feed your chickens!

Subliminal processing needs content . . . mental food. The more information you have floating around your subconscious, the more inventory it has for solving problems. Imagine painting a picture with only black and white soft paint. Your art can only show shades of gray. No color. No texture. But, if you have an entire pallet of colors, the possibilities are endless.

Ideas are the food pellets for a writer’s mind, both consciously and subconsciously. They say good writers should be avid readers. Why is that? Because, the more we read, the more inventory we add to our idea pool—the more pellets we are throwing to our mental chickens.

What color is a rose? Many people immediately say, “red.”  A writer should say, “white, yellow, red, orange, pink, blue, peppermint . . .” The writer’s list is almost endless. In addition, roses can be mixed colors. The point is a writer’s mind uses lots of options from which to paint our literary pictures. That old computer adage, “garbage in, garbage out” applies to the mind, too. Images percolating to the mind’s surface come from the input we put in. That content is the key to controlling our subliminal processing results. By controlling the input, we shape the output. Even though the unconscious mind works independently, its output will be limited to the choices we gave it.

If I am struggling with a plot issue or in a quandary about a character trait, I trust my hidden processing to find answers. I will sleep on the matter, sometimes waking in the middle of the night, excited about a solution to my writing dilemma. I keep a pen and pad in my nightstand for those 3AM inspirations. Often, I will be driving down a busy street when my subliminal processor hits the send button with its output. Yep, I keep a notepad and pen in my center console.

Trust your subconscious. It’s a magnificent tool as long as you feed it lots of raw material. Read, watch, listen, smell, taste, feel . . . use all your senses to stock inventory into your subliminal writing reservoir, and when you need it, it will serve you well.

Remember my aunt’s advice. If you feed those chickens, you’ll get a steady supply of eggs.


  1. Great stuff again, Dean. Always love reading your blog.

  2. I didn't know you had a blog. Happy to be following you. Your blog looks great by the way.

    1. Hi Susan,

      I was always the shy boy who went to school dances but hid in the shadows, too nervous to ask a girl to dance. Point is I still enjoy those safe shadows and don't promote my writing or blogs as much as I should. I'll work on

      Thank you for your comments and participation. Dean

  3. I agree. New ideas , and even solutions to problems, often come from connecting two or three 'unrelated' let's say, items.

    Reading, watching interesting and thought-provoking shows, stimulating conversations, even daydreaming...feed those chickens for the egg..err, ummm, lighbulb to not only to be laid, but hatched.

    Very much enjoyed this post.

    1. Terry,

      I fear that many writes don't understand the power of the subconscious for improving their prose. Others simply don't trust the subliminal to generate conscious thought, yet it does all the time. My goal with this blog is to shed light on that valuable literary tool.

      Thank you for your contribution...Dean.


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