Trust Yourself

Trusting Yourself

I think I may have reached a new level of writing. Or maybe just come up with an excuse to slack off.

Every once in awhile . . . All right. Every story has a sticking point, and I have to finally grit my teeth and get it down on, well, screen, sentence-by-sentence. The bad ones are word-by-word.

And some just stop. Eventually I move them to the “Story Ideas” file and try to forget them. I’ll poke at them occasionally. My worst crash-and-burn on NaNoWriMo was an attempt to forcibly restart one, a couple of years ago.

But then something goes “click” and I dig one out and get to work.

So, my new writing technique?

I have come to trust my subconscious.

The story I’m currently writing? Hit one of those points, and I just said, “Okay, I’ll go do some editing, I really need to get something out the door . . .”

And a few days later, I’m, like, “Duh! I’m an idiot! The hero can’t just pick up the super weapon and pound the bad guys in the first battle! He’s got to be in dire, desperate, straights before he’ll break out the exceedingly dangerous (never let this fall into enemy hands) super gun, and by then he’ll have to work to get to it. Then it has to be ruined, and the final battle has to be all guts and determination.”

Really, I ought to be honest and publish as “Pam’s Subconscious.”

Anyhow . . . Can I use this in Real Life? Or is it just an excuse to be lazy?

Some of my snap decisions have been the best things I’ve ever done—maybe five seconds max when my company offered me a transfer to the new Houston office. Ahem, from the San Francisco office. Bit of culture shock, that move. First day I was there, I met this Uphoff fellow.

Not that I can credit my subconscious with Tom specifically! But it was a very good move. I’ve bought houses after carefully assessing several . . . and walked into just one more . . . and it was the right one, made an offer.

The current house was . . . interesting. Umm, house hunting out-to-there pregnant with an 18 month old in tow. Child number one was being Very Good. Interested, but a bit clingy as we walked in and out of about five houses.

This one was a bit weird. And the decor? The guy raced motorcycles, the place was decorated in trophies. Not artistically displayed. They were packed four deep everywhere.

Number One Son, who had been scoping out houses all day, while staying within his arms length of me, and sometimes with a grip on my pants leg, let go and trotted into the living room and sat down on the couch like he’d come home.

So of course we bought it.

And still live there.

It’s much more attractive without the wall-to-wall trophies.

So maybe it’s just taken this long for the subconscious to get through to me on the writing, or maybe both conscious and subconscious had to learn how to write.

So, how do your snap decisions—or “something” stopping you from taking that final step—turn out?

10 comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about this for several weeks. So I think I should reluctantly respond:

    We live in an “action centered” Jordan Peterson world so DO SOMETHING. For many years I have not sought to “change the world” — a common sales pitch for the new millennium made by many colleges and politicians. I sought to live in harmony with the world under the assumption that an intelligence far greater than mine is ordering it around me. My destiny in this life waits for me in eternity; the journey there requires a multitude of choices. I want to chose the path that brings me closer, knowing that many paths will take me further away.

    So I observe a strategy I seem to have developed:

    1. Don’t do anything now that I can do later.
    2. Don’t try to do anything when there is really nothing I can do.
    3. When I can do something, the best choice will usually be the one I think the least about.

    Most of the best life choices I have made “subconsciously.” Made my million in real estate, buying most properties sight unseen. Rarely shopped for employment; waited for job offers and always took them. Married first woman to ask me. List is very long. I did not “plan” my life this way; this is “how it happened.”

    I realize that this is the opposite of most popular advice. I am NOT giving advice or making an argument against striving to be in charge of your life. I have tried that a few times. It didn’t turn out very well. See what works for you; that’s what I’ve done for 80 years.

    1. I’m maybe on the ‘do something’ end of the spectrum, and I also very much oppose ‘change the world’ goals.

      Mainly because I think they set people up for failure and unhappiness.

      Thing is, the people held up as role models to emulate in changing the world might a) have extreme survivor-ship bias b) tend to be good marketeers, and putting a spin on their original motivations.

      If you pick people who have successfully ‘changed the world’, you are not comparing to unsuccessful similar people in similar situations. This makes the success process look more deliberate and reliable than it really is.

      If you pick people who have successfully appeared to ‘change the world’, your selection criteria is a little biased towards those that take credit, and against those who think “I have no idea how this happened, and it terrifies me”.

      Fundamentally, deliberately changing the world is difficult when you are working on small things that you can really control. Suppose you want the world to be radioactive cinders, and you want to do this by creating technology. You could succeed in creating the technology, then fail because you cannot get the backers for the next step. You need to not only understand the things under your control, but how things propagate between that scale, and the world scale. You are collecting information about the world, finding a single point that things turn on, changing that, and trying to make the change have the exact results that you want. Sure, it can happen if things line up, but those things are outside of your control, and if you are forcing people against their will, people as smart as you will be looking for ways to screw you over. Waiting, and multiple attempts are likewise not perfect answers.

      If you instead chase small scale goals, you are less likely to be disappointed by never ending failure.

      Furthermore, a certain amount of the ‘change the world’ ‘role models’ are exciting to some people because of the wealth and status. Chasing wealth and status directly is more likely to be effective, even if it doesn’t seem to me any more likely to cause satisfaction or happiness.

      There are a number of heuristics to accumulating wealth, including thrift and careful forward thinking. Are these attractive activities for those who dream of wealth?

      And what is status? How do you get it? What are the consequences? I dunno. I understand how one can earn reputations that align with behavior and one’s behavioral tendency. Is a positive reputation among a specific group something like status?

      1. Yes! I once spent a couple of years analyzing historical criticism and opposition received by a 6000 member “world changing” international NGO, writing a lengthy, detailed report to the board. The organization was changed along the lines I and others in the report had recommended. I never received a peep of credit, which for me was evidence that I had simply articulated to them what was already there. Still today I see the unattributed influence of my presence here and there.

  2. I mostly have “no, don’t”s.

    They generally turn out very well– COULD be identifying Something Wrong.

    Husband says that I have subconscious decisions to ignore things where for some reason his worry-wart wife just completely ignores Obvious Rational Threat. There are some examples where he’s not wrong….

  3. I just assume that my subconsious will kick in when I close a file. “OK, I”m done.” Hit the little red dot. After ten minutes or so, my hind-brain starts coughing up all the things I missed, changes I need, details to fill in. It’s uncanny.

    As for other things? If other people are involved, I don’t make snap decisions. If I’m on my own, I might do something on impulse, but most of the time I stew, game out things, and then do them. Only if I get a very strong internal [?] push will I do something different. The push has a very specific and unusual sense to it, and I know instantly that it’s something I’d better do (or not do).

  4. My subconscious is very good at plot developments at odd hours. And times. Like a story that just revived after five years on the backburner.

  5. Intuitive or subconscious decisions commonly have an advantage over carefully-considered decisions: You didn’t have the chance to =talk yourself into= (or out of) whatever.

  6. Your post gives me hope. We’ve been looking for a house for months, came THISCLOSE to buying one, only to back out at the last minute.
    I’m going to church today, and put the final decision in God’s hands. It’s worked before.

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