The Importance of the Othermind

I am not a morning person. I like to wake up slowly and give my brain time to adjust to the sometimes horrifying fact that I am not independently wealthy and must actually go to work. And don’t get me wrong, most of the time I enjoy my job. But enjoyment can’t change the fact that I am forced to rise earlier than I would like, only to spend long hours at a place that is not my true life. For some people, that isn’t true; they are their jobs, they consider their jobs some sort of soul-satisfying ‘career’. Those people are completely alien to me.

No. The worse thing about an alarm clock going off in the morning is that it tears me away from my real world, and the work that actually does satisfy my soul: dreaming. Now I’m not talking about being asleep and dreaming, I’m talking about the extraordinary twenty minutes or so when I’m when awake, but I’m so recently asleep that I’m still holding hands with my unconscious mind (or the ‘othermind’, as I call it). During that brief time, I can think about my book-in-progress and my characters, and I can see what needs to happen next – I can discover the most wonderful plot points, and it all fits together with ease. It’s not as if I’m thinking anything rationally, I’m just floating somewhere in a soft place, and I’m observing what happens as the othermind puts everything together for me in clear, visual images that make me run scrambling for a pen once I really wake up. Those twenty minutes are the closest thing I’ll come to actual magic: I treasure them, and I’m jealous of them.

The othermind and I are learning to work together, learning ways of communication. It takes effort, and I think a lot of people (the people who say they aren’t creative) have grown up so effectively that they’ve shut out every vestige of natural communication between the ‘rational’ conscious part of their brain and the silent, often wordless unconscious. After all, it’s the othermind who still believes in monsters possibly under your bed when you’re thirty-something, and so what good is it? It obviously can’t be trusted; better just to suppress it entirely and believe solely in hard beliefs like mathematics and what you’ve seen with your own eyes.

Well, I’m willing to be sometimes freaked out by the idea of monsters under my bed, if it brings with it the beauty of believing that possibly anything is possible, if it brings with it the ability to see into other worlds that never existed until I made them exist, if it lets me look at something ordinary or ugly and see how I could turn it into something that other people would want to look at, if it lets me feel like at any moment magic could happen, because magic does happen. It happens all the time, all around us, only most people are too occupied with seeing what their eyes have seen before to notice how the ordinary is suddenly extraordinary.

Puddles on the street, for instance. How many people make a habit of looking into every one they pass? I do, and I never fail to be awestruck by how each is a reflection of a world that seems more beautiful that ours. How is it, that surrounded by concrete and oil spills, puddles find the only angle to reflect the sky? Or a branch of perfect golden leaves you somehow never noticed? Or an eerily gorgeous distortion of a building that surely never was in your world? How many people look only at the mud and miss all the windows?

How many people will go out in the rain for the sole purpose of seeing raindrops on their garden leaves? Am I the only one raising my hand? What about frost? Or moss growing up a wall or in a broken piece of pavement – how many people get out the moss-remover without even spending one moment to stroke the moss and notice the delicate clinging tendrils? How many people dig dandelions out of their yard without ever having looked at a dandelion flower up close and recognized its beauty? The death of imagination, and the suffocation of the soul, begins with the forgetfulness to look at the ordinary, and to keep looking at it for all of your life.

Be scared of silly things, dream in that extra twenty minutes without feeling lazy, and consciously peer into every ordinary, overlooked thing you can find. You’re not wasting anything, certainly not time; you’re enriching your othermind, and you’re giving it a language to speak with.

4 responses to “The Importance of the Othermind

  1. Alisa,
    I think you are a totally great writer.

  2. Thank you, Cindy! For some of my *fiction* writing, you can check out this site: (Scroll to the very bottom of the page.)


  3. hmmm. I’m just picturing in my mind what Ellen would think of ‘I was in commune with my othermind’ as a reason to be late to work. *I* get it. Ellen on the other hand. Not so much! 🙂
    I’m totally with you on this, but on 2 points in particular.

    1 being about the dandelions. I think it’s sad that a weed is a weed (and should accordingly be killed) because it’s hearty. It seems like, the more finicky and difficult a flower is to grow, the more we love it, and the more a flower grows without our assistance, the more we distain it. I think weeds have spunk. I think they have the type of spirit that I want, and I’m anti weed killing! So there!

    The other part being, initially I was confused by this: “Those twenty minutes are the closest thing I’ll come to actual magic: I treasure them, and I’m jealous of them.” I thought, ‘why jealous?’ But then I got it (although maybe not your intent. I got it in *my* way.) That othermind is the real “brains” of the operation (pardon the pun), isn’t it? I think that’s where all the creativity really comes from, and we just either stifle it, or let it loose and write it down. When we let that othermind have free reign, that’s when we can visit with what is often called “our muse.” What *is* that? That’s what I want to know. And we’ve talked about how scary it is, for a writer, to not be able to depend upon it. It’s your best writing, but is it *you* writing it? And when you slog through it, without your othermind’s asistance, it’s definitely *your writing*, but it’s never as good. So, you can definitely be jealous of, in essence, a part of your brain that you feel that you’re not in control of. How weird is that? Is that normal?!?
    *sigh* So confusing.

  4. Alisa,
    I understand the “other mind” bit. I am primarily a sanguine temperament. I can be very disorganized and chase butterflies. But I am blended with the melancholy temperament that wants things in order and on target. As long as the two minds stay in constant communication, we seem to get the job done in a very fun way 🙂

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