I’ve been consciously thinking about the subconsciousness of writing.
Beth Orton, a British singer/songwriter, has just released her new CD, “Sugaring Season,” which The New York Times called “a quietly spellbinding album.”
In the Times article (09/30/2012), Orton makes a statement about the mystery of songwriting. She says, “The songwriting brain is much smarter than me. I’m not that person. It makes connections that I don’t make necessarily.” Almost removing herself from the writing process in which she excels, she expresses the feeling that somebody else inside her head is doing the work, while she simply observes.
I thought about her comment recently when reading “Getting out of the Way,” a Roger Ebert blog post from last December. Ebert, a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and a journalist, was writing about a 12-year-old musical prodigy, Jay Greenberg, who composes sonatas and other classical music pieces in his head.
How does he do it? Greenberg is quoted as saying, “It’s as if the unconscious mind is giving orders at the speed of light. You know, I mean, so I just hear it as if it were a smooth performance of a work that is already written, when it isn’t.”
In this great blog post, Ebert expands beyond the mystery of writing music to that of math and chess, two other fields where prodigies are often found. He says “. . . it occurred to me that this perfection preexists in the human mind. Just as Noam Chomsky once speculated that the rules of linguistics were hard-wired into the mind and not learned, so perhaps music, math and chess live there—and countless other forms that have yet to find an avatar in the practical world.”
He adds, “It may be that Jay Greenberg is unique, but I think it [is] just as likely that he is simply drawing on access to abilities many of us were born with but have lost track of.”
Ebert ends his piece by bringing the focus back to writing, but this time to writing prose, not songs or music.
Commenting on the way he, himself, writes, Ebert says, “I say it is ‘taking dictation from that place in my mind that tells me what to say.’ This doesn’t make me a genius. It has nothing to do with that. It simply means that having been given language and grammar, my mind supplies the words. The moment I began reading about Jay Greenberg, this piece began writing itself, and all I had to do was type it out.”
Then he concludes with this sentence: “Your field may not be writing, but in whatever you do, I suspect there may be an area in which your mind is composing and performs for you if you only listen.”
I’m convinced he’s correct.
And I wonder what we could accomplish in our work as PR and corporate communications professionals if we only took the time to listen to what’s going on in our minds while we rush—in panic and urgency—to complete the latest project that is drowning out our quiet thoughts.
(Photo: Shutterstock/Minerva Studio)