The Saturday Creativity Quote — Anthony Doerr on the subconscious

photo of welded sculpture of a heron, with a mountain lake in the background

When I’m working on a project, which is pretty much all the time, and I have to be away from my desk, whether for an afternoon of errands or a weekend at a convention, I play a little game with myself. What three things from my own experience—what I think, feel, eat, hear, notice, worry about—can I give one of my characters? It’s a way of consciously keeping the subconscious engaged. Play it often enough and you’ll just do it, without thinking about it. So I like what Anthony Doerr has to say about creating the opportunities for story questions and insights.

“If you’re working lots every day, suddenly the world starts glowing and crackling with little gifts you can harvest and plug into your projects. You see a woman in a gown get into a Pontiac and start to cry and you think: What is the story there? What if my protagonist sees a similar thing? Or you read a description of how the sea sounds in rocks, and you realize, I could use that same word – “sounds” – when my character goes to the sea and hears it gurgling through the pebbles. Or you see light bounding down through the leaves of an oak, or a nun slip on ice, or a row of dead mosquitoes on a windowsill. And your mind starts translating these things into language. . . .
“The more hours a project is part of your day, the more it will be in your subconscious during the rest of the hours when you’re not working.”

– Anthony Doerr, The Writer, Oct 2014

The Saturday Writing Quote — on empathy

“Writing stories is not, despite appearances, about spending lots of time with oneself. It’s about learning to be able to look beyond the self, beyond the ego, to enter other lives and other worlds, It’s about honing one’s sense of empathy so that a story might bridge the gap between the personal and the communal.”

– Anthony Doerr, The Writer, Oct 2014