5 Times You Should Listen to Your Subconscious

by The Magic Violinist | 22 comments

Creative inspiration hits us every day, whether or not we realize it. The trick is knowing when to be listening for those ideas.

listen to yourself

Times to Listen to Yourself

While we go through the motions of our day, we should pause every now and then and listen to our subconscious. When are the best times? Here are five examples.

1. In the shower

This might be the most obvious (and cliché), but it’s true. Whether you’re in the shower or bath, something about the sound and feeling of hot running water going down your skin sparks inspiration in us. Take those few minutes each morning to let your imagination run wild. You’d be surprised how productive it can be.

2. When you’re bored

All too often we view boredom as a negative thing, when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. When we’re bored, we usually find some way of distracting ourselves until we’re entertained again. Instead of pulling out your phone to play a few levels of Candy Crush while waiting in line, observe your surroundings. Take deep breaths. Listen. This is the perfect opportunity to think of new ideas.

3. As you’re falling asleep

This is one of my favorite times to be aware of the possibilities running through my mind. Usually when I’m just on the brink of sleep, I’ll try to come up with a new idea or an answer to my writer’s block, and when I wake up, my dreams have inspired something.

4. While you’re walking outside

When I walk my dog, I pay extra special attention to every sound I hear, the feel of the pavement under my feet, the yards of each house around me, the temperature, everything. Sometimes just being in tune with nature is a great way to refresh your creativity.

One of my favorite writing exercises is just staring at a spot outside and trying to picture someone there. It can be anyone and they can be doing anything, but that act alone often causes a brand new character to walk into your life. Don’t be afraid to let them strike up a conversation with you.

5. During a car ride

Long or short, this is another perfect chance to think of something. If it helps, turn on the radio. Sing along, if you feel like it. Watch the trees you pass. Do whatever it takes to help get yourself in tune with your subconscious.

What are the best times for you to get inspired? Let us know in the comments.


During one of the five times listed above, stop what you’re doing for a bit and just be in the moment. Take deep breaths, clear your mind, and let your subconscious do the talking. How does it help your creativity? Did it work out that problem you’ve been struggling over for days? Did you come up with a brand new idea? Write for fifteen minutes and, if you’d like, share in the comments below. Don’t forget to give your fellow writers a little love, too!

The Magic Violinist is a young author who writes mostly fantasy stories. She loves to play with her dog and spend time with her family. Oh, and she's homeschooled. You can visit her blog at themagicviolinist.blogspot.com. You can also follow The Magic Violinist on Twitter (@Magic_Violinist).


  1. AC Cooper

    Great ideas. One of the best ways that I’ve discovered to tune into my subconscious is to write without an outline. Simply write a story and discover what happens to your characters when you put them into different situations. Great fun.

  2. Kimberly Jayne

    I have found all five of those things work for me! I also do occasional “mindful daydreaming,” where I lay down for a bit and “dream” about scenes. Different scenarios start peeking out, from where they were apparently stuck in a dormant brain channel, and now that I can see them, I have lots of new ideas to work with.

    • sherpeace

      That sounds like a great idea to develop or add to a story, Kimberly! I did this a lot when working on my first novel. Don’t know how I forgot about doing it, but I now have a way to get unstuck in the future!
      Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
      Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

  3. Tina Seward

    In a novel I’m working on, I had a character chase after a car and go off the road. When he regained consciousness, a park ranger was asking him if he was all right . . . and when the character tried to get out of the car, she told him, “Your seat belt’s still on.”

    It was as I was trying to go to sleep a few weeks ago that I was mulling over the context of this scene, which is, he witnessed his best friend get pushed into the back of a car and the car roared off. So the character jumped into his own car and went after them. That was when I realized, he might not even take TIME to fasten his seat belt!

  4. Daniel Boyd

    I have to second the shower. One of these days I am going to spend the extra money for a waterproof phone or voice recorder so I can capture my thoughts without having to get out… because my ideas generally spiral out of my head faster than the water down the drain.

    • noura

      or u can simply keep a capped kohl pencil beside ur shampoo bottles n scribble ideas on the wall tiles when they come! rubbing kohl later with rubbing alcohol or scrubbing off with soap n sponge will clean up the tiles 😉

  5. dduggerbiocepts

    You raise some interesting creativity enhancing theories. Let me think a little about each.

    I can agree that the shower can be productive. However, most ideas and thoughts go down the drain with my shampoo. It can be a difficult environment in which to take notes or record your thoughts.

    If you are bored, you probably aren’t that creative to start with – basic logic. The concepts of boredom and creativity are mutually exclusive. Essentially, if your mind finds itself bored – there was a general lack of interesting thought material available to it – which is a truly sad condition. If your life is well lived, it should be rich with interesting experiences. Even periods when there is no outside stimulation, should be flooded with either memories, or thoughts of problems or projects that need to be started and or completed. Projects require problem solution – planning, organizing, material acquisition, implementation and revision until satisfaction is reached. If you think you’re bored, more than likely you are confusing boredom with procrastination. You are limiting what you could do for some other reasons that if you were dealing with properly – would not leave you bored. In any case, if you are truly bored it is an unlikely period for new mental constructs to suddenly appear in your mind. Your mind is trying to solve the problem of what to think about – which is circular.

    Ideas before going to sleep: I used to have all kinds of seemingly great ideas that would actually keep me awake from their excitement, but then would often forget them by the next morning. Then I put a note pad and pen on my bed side table. I started writing down my pre-sleep “brilliant” ideas. Surprisingly, most of my great ideas – when viewed in the clear light of the next morning were far less exciting and or useful than they seemed the night before. In my own case, I now view my pre-sleep ruminations with a high degree of skepticism regarding their future value. Instead I find that a good night’s sleep generally prepares the mind for better creativity performance the next day. Reading before sleep seems to work best for me by allowing my mind to exclude the day’s events and shut down gradually. Becoming drowsy while reading is a wonderful way to end the day and to slip seamlessly into sleep.

    Walks are too visually distracting generally to be very productive for me. Being distracted from walking can additionally be dangerous – traffic, tree roots or limbs, holes, dog poo and strangers that should be avoided. I do take walks on the nearby beach and rather than creative – I find them a chance to clear my head, gain perspective on problems and establish priorities, but not come up with new ideas.

    Driving should obviously be dedicated to driving. I’ll admit that longer trips do provide a chance for reverie. Of the two traffic accidents I have had, both happened because I was not paying close attention to those around me who were also in reverie and not watching where they were going. Maybe when self-driving cars become common place – the car will become more conducive to safe productivity, but still likely too distracting for quality creativity.

    The common thread herein I believe is that creativity is generally best found in comfortable and secure surroundings, where distractions can be limited and the mind can wander without concerns for safety. This is why the shower can seem such a great place for new ideas to emerge – comfort, isolation, and security. There are under water note boards and water proof recorders if this really works for you. It’s also why meditation isn’t normally practiced in active and uncontrolled surroundings. This same theme has been listed in TWP repeatedly regarding having a designated time and a place to write. Our lives are far too active and we become so saturated with stimuli that we don’t recognize its distraction regarding allowing a time and place for creativity to happen.

  6. rosie

    Movie soundtracks are magic. They let your subconscious and your imagination wonder–I especially love it if you haven’t watched the movie! I’ve been listening to the La Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain soundtrack, even though I barely know two words of French. Tres amour!

  7. Annie

    Feeling her eyelids starting to droop, Elena shook her head and rubbed her eyes. She couldn’t fall asleep now. Not with such an important destination awaiting her. But the smooth road and gentle bumps lulled her almost to sleep. In an attempt to stay awake, Elena leaned her head against the car window. The vibrations of the smudged glass shook her entire body and gave her a splitting headache. But she was awake and that was all that mattered.

    At last, the car slowed to a stop and the driver opened Elena’s door. Stretching her sore legs as she did so, she got out of the car and made her way to the mansion. The crumbling bricks and moss-covered pillars gave the place an antique, but homely feel. Her heart in her throat, Elena took a deep breath and grasped the old fashioned door knocker with a shaking hand. The thunk caused a flurry of motion inside the house. A light was flipped on and shuffling feet could be heard in the front hall. The door swung open, creaking on its rarely used hinges.

    “Who dares disturb me at this hour of the day?”

    The voice shocked Elena, as she had not intended to disturb anyone, hence coming at high noon instead of midnight as was her forte. She took a step back, positioning herself to see the person who had answered the door. He was tall, or would have been if he wasn’t hunched over like an old man. He was probably in his mid-forties and was wearing a deep violet bathrobe that fell past his ankles. And he was not who Elena had expected to answer the door.

    “Um…excuse me sir, I didn’t mean to interrupt anything. I just was…wondering if, um, does anyone else live here?”

    The man turned around and in a deep gravely voice called out into the darkness of the mansion. “Genevieve? Someone’s here to see you.”

    The name sparked a warning bell of alarm in the back of Elena’s mind, but she ignored it. She was eager to meet the person her lieutenant had told her so much about. Looking up, she was greeted by a sneer and a frighteningly malicious laugh.

    “So, you must be Elena. Come, we have much to do before the rituals commence.”

    • Beth Schmelzer

      Intriguing beginning….I think you mean homey or homy, not homely when describing the mansion. As a reader, I want to read more of your plot after the great set-up you wrote, Annie.

    • I'm determined

      Where is the next piece? What rituals? Who is her lieutenant and why did e send Elana thee?

  8. noura

    fabulous ideas here.. the shower and the walk certainly work for me! i also found that playing soft rain sounds (from youtube) or birdchirping ..closing my eyes and drifting off helps relax my mind and ideas surface.

  9. sherpeace

    What is invigilation? I can’t imagine asking anyone to stay in one place for 3 hours, not the teacher, and definitely not the students!
    I hope you are able to pass this on to your students. They may need something besides the clock to focus on too!
    Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

    • shass

      Nice questn sherpeace…..bt it’s nothing kinda torture…..invigilation is when students take paper nd teachers have to stay and supervise them….

  10. Aspholessaria

    Great post, especially the bit about the importance of boredom. I tell my grandchildren when they say they’re bored ‘There’s nothing wrong with boredom.’

    Oh, yes, and thank you for using the word ‘subconscious ‘. Too many people use ‘unconscious ‘ which is the state of a total lack of awareness.

  11. Lauren Lagergren

    You can lose yourself in the woods. Three years ago, the loggers rolled in and fell the hemlock, spruce, and alder, then hauled the saleable wood away to be sold. Piles of junk wood stand in piles, drying, for firewood. The other half of the woods still stand with skinny trunked and flat needled hemlocks tickling the sky. It’s old beneath those trees. Old moss, old stumps spilling out rotten bits of wood, branches scattered, paths stunted. Trillium, or false lily of the valley, poke up through the detritus. If you hard enough you can see patches of blue sky through the backside. If you go there, you will disappear.
    My 15 minutes outside today.

  12. The Almighty

    We’ll I was sitting in class, and this sprung up.
    She raked her tapered blue hair as she slouched over her notes. Mr. Kipling’s voice seemed to maintain that unpleasant drawl for the past two hours, but as he began discussing next class’s assignments, she lifted her face to stare out the window.
    What day is it? she pondered, I wonder if I have a meeting or somethin.
    “Isolde,” he creaked, “list the main imports of Azerbaijan and the current political boundaries of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
    The girl bit her lip as her eyes skimmed the zoned-out expressions of the class. The few who were alive were ignoring her and staring down the clock. Coughing, she brought her attention back to the steely blue gaze of her teacher.
    “Um, iPhones and… and,” Isolde mumbled as she began kneading her palm with her nails.
    “Aha, once again, Ms. Kinsley, I have exposed your lack of studious habits. Class! Consider her an example. Now—”
    The bell strunk the building tension, and prompted the blue-haired teen to slither out the door among the fleeing children. The flushing teacher attempted to call her, but the sudden flutter of activity brushed him off to the side.

    I always have next class, Isolde assured herself as she greeted her friends, I always have next class.

  13. LaCresha Lawson

    I totally agree. I get ideas during the day. And, If I feel a good one coming on, I have to write it down. I write best at night. Maybe, because the kids are asleep at that time. And, some creativity comes from my kids.

  14. Beth Schmelzer

    We are always told to “focus” which is one of my problems as a writer and an editor. Which project should I work on now? I love your take on using the subconscious to be more creative. Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” is a “genius” text to help with my own creativity.

  15. Mary James

    I like suggestion number 3 the best. It is the end of a long day, I’ve finished journal entries to quiet the voices in my head. I said quiet the voices, not shut them down completely. I put on my headphones to listen to calming music and nature sounds to help put me into a deep restorative sleep. In the morning, my mind and heart are ready to meet the day’s challenges and word counts.

  16. Shivani Krishnan

    I agree. A lot of great ideas come from strange places at strange times. Especially when falling asleep – I find that your dreams can be a great indicator of interesting ideas. Your subconscious picks up things you normally wouldn’t, and upon accessing it, you will most likely be able to get over any writer’s block you have.

  17. Chris Thompson

    Such a great post on taking time to appreciate life for a moment. It helps us see the value and meaning as to why we live. Keep up the great work!



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