Of Darkness, the Collected Unconscious, and Writing

Posted: June 29, 2014 in writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

me: “Damn. I overslept this morning.”
other: “Til when? Eight or something?”
me: “Five.”
*cue incredulous stare*

Tis a conversation that I’ve had many times to my amusement. The fact that I tend to (voluntarily, without a gun to my head) get up most days between two and three in the morning, tends to bestow upon me more odd looks than if I had announced I came from planet Romulan or danced naked beneath a grove of Cypress trees. A little understandable considering that some article I came across (and of course, can’t find now) stated that only about three percent of people rose before the sun.

Yet a few days ago, I was speaking with a new friend of mine (a musician) and to my surprise, he didn’t blink at all. Rather, he nodded. “I used to love getting up at 3 am. I used to do some of my best work then.”

me: “Yes! It’s so peaceful. The whole world seems to be asleep except for me.”

Then my friend brought up Jung and his theories on the collective unconscious, which got me thinking…perhaps it wasn’t just the serenity of the hour, but the fact that so many people were in the midst of sleeping which heightened my senses, my creativity. Could I not be tapping into some of their dreams and nightmares?

While some writers believe their stories fully come from within themselves, there are others who believe they are tapping into something “other”. As Isabel Allende said, “I spend ten, twelve hours a day alone in a room writing. I don’t talk to anybody. I don’t answer the telephone. I’m just a medium or an instrument of something that is happening beyond me, voices that talk through me. I’m creating a world that is fiction but that doesn’t belong to me.”

While surely some of my beliefs and life experiences bleed into my work, I’ve always leaned more towards the second camp of thought. As I was discussing with a dear writer friend of mine, as she was trying to explain her process of creating her characters and plots, I mentioned how to me, it felt more like the people and events already existed, had occurred, or was occurring, and I was simply telling their story.

The creator vs the chronicler, if you will.

In any event, it hardly seems accidental that most creative persons prefer either early morning or late night for their endeavors. While I’m sure they exist, I’ve personally never met a scribe who called themselves an afternoon writer. Perhaps due to circumstance one may have to do their writing during the day, but it is during the dark hours that most of us are called to our art.


  1. Stephen Thom says:

    Yeah I much prefer being up in the middle of the night for this type of thing. I just like it because it’s quiet, I hadn’t considered I might be tapping into some kind of collective unconscious. But I will use this as another excuse next time I am justifying to myself sleeping totally anti-social hours

  2. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I don’t have the freedom to be up at night writing, but a lot of times I find I can’t even get into the flow until 8:00 in the evening. At that point I only have a couple hours, tops, to get anything done.

    I’m not sure I believe in tapping into the ether because god knows I’ve wished often enough I could hear someone’s thoughts, or send mine to them and it never seems to work ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I do have to put myself into the frame of mind of writing about something that’s already happened when I’m torturing my characters! I would hate to think that in some other universe or plane of existence I was actually creating that scenario and forcing someone to live out what I was imagining about them. (I know, weird). The movie Delirious with John Candy was along those lines, where everything he wrote came true.

    I can’t say I like the idea of just chronicling other people’s thoughts. I think it lessens our achievement if that’s all it is.

  3. Heya DD,

    I’ve heard others say the same thing, but I don’t look at it as any less of an achievement. Of course I can only speak for myself, and while I can’t know for certain, I have always felt part of/or some of my stories came from my own inner imagination and sometimes from some place “other”. It’s hard to explain, but somehow I can feel a difference.

    It’s like, someone wants me to tell their story, their POV of how/why something happened. And I have to get that all down on paper like maybe a biographer would? And there’s all this digging and digging, getting deepr and deeper into who they were (their characterization) and what happened to them (plot) and organize it all in the tidy way that novels are, unlike life.

    Or the “other” could be picking up a quick thought that isn’t mine, but that then sends me off thinking about an idea for a story.

    If we can subconsciously pick up ideas from other people’s dreams and so forth, I wouldn’t think of that as any different than getting ideas from something we read in the paper or a story a friend relates to us during waking consciousness.

    As to actually making things happen…I haven’t seen Delirious but It’s a fun concept that some fantasy writers have played with. I mean, fun for fiction. I wouldn’t want that kind of power/responsibility in real life. I’d be afraid ot write anything!

  4. Heya Stephen,

    That made me laugh. Hope it works for you.

  5. p.s. DD, perhaps an analogy of how it feels to me is the difference between someone reading a deck of tarot and someone serving as an oracle.

    Maybe it is all me, but I can only say that it doesn’t feel so in my case.

    In any event, i find the creative process- no matterin which way(s) we do it…utterly fascinating.

  6. Jamila says:

    Yes, the dark hours call me as well. Very nice๐Ÿ˜Ž

  7. Hi Jamila!

    There is something special about that time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Hi Tasha, interesting read. I typically edit as soon as I get up around 7/8 depending the time hubby wake up to ask me to iron his shirt or tell me he is leaving. Then I start to edit since I can’t sleep no more. During this time I am taking a lot of pause checking emails, going out for a walk, or to appointments. Come back home and check emails and edit with a lot of small break for my eyes to rest. But once it is after 11pm I notice I tend to edit faster and is more focus. Tired but focus until 4-6 in the morning to do it all over again with lack of sleep. Question to myself is then why not just edit at 11pm because then I will be thinking of how much I could of got done. Arrrggg I need to be like some other photographer and just fix the lighting, add a little color, and done. Instead of retouching the darn photo. Maybe one day I learn to do less but I a so anal. Naja, back to editing, lol. Have a great week!

  9. Hi Lora!

    Always wonderful to hear from you.

    If 11pm to 4am-ish is when you are at your peak and most focused, I would definitely do your editing and anything else then if it is at all possible. Don’t waste your best hours! ๐Ÿ™‚

    (I realize that can be difficult in a world which is mostly 9-5)

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