What’s in the Locker?

I had a dream recently in which I wanted to open a locker but couldn’t remember the combination.  When I mentioned this dream to Mark Stairwalt, he suggested that the locker might be a subconscious representation of ideas and creative energies in need of unlocking.

That interpretation left me thinking about a brown folder where I had kept notes about story ideas, incomplete handwritten stories (I’m old-fashioned in that I prefer to use pen and paper for first drafts), and other material related to creative writing.  Just a few years ago, that folder was crammed full of works in progress.  But various distractions intervened, and the folder gradually shrank as completed stories were not replaced by new material.  The well finally ran dry, and the brown folder ended up being used for other miscellaneous documents instead.

Next to it I kept a blue folder, which was supposed to hold a fantasy novel, but only a few pages ever got written.  My creative energies had gotten thoroughly stuck in the doldrums by the time Mark invited me to write for Shift Journal in the summer of 2009.  Just putting together my first post took me several months.

After a while I started writing articles for Shift regularly, but I still felt that I wasn’t on top of my game.  I never could build up a reserve supply of future blog posts or notes for them in the old brown folder; and as for the blue folder, it had been gathering dust both literally and figuratively for over a year.  Although I enjoyed taking part in serious and meaningful discussions of social change at Shift, I didn’t feel as creatively inspired as I had been in the past.

So after I had that dream about the locker and got Mark’s input on it, I decided to do a visualization exercise.  I closed my eyes, took a few calming breaths, and told myself I was going to open that locker just the same way I always did, no big deal.  I imagined myself walking into a room full of lockers and finding the right one.  It had a removable combination lock that was just like the one I used in high school.  I put my hand on the lock, the numbers came to mind easily, and I spun the dial.  The lock clicked open, and I took it off.  Then I opened the narrow metal door and looked at what was behind it.

Inside the locker there was only… the blue folder.  I noticed that it had a thick sheaf of papers in it, rather than just the few pages I’d written in real life.  I visualized myself picking up the folder and taking it home.  Then I imagined attaching a tag to the lock with the combination written on it before putting the lock in my junk drawer.

A few days have gone by since then, and it still remains to be seen what else is going to inhabit the blue folder.  I haven’t yet felt inspired to do any more writing on the fantasy story; but, while composing the first draft of this blog post, I kept the folder on the table next to me.  Before typing this post into the computer, I left the handwritten page in the blue folder overnight, to impress upon my subconscious mind that the folder is ready and waiting to receive more creative works.

Many of the articles here on Shift Journal deal with the theatrical aspects of political and social change—that is, setting the scene for positive transformations to take place in the narratives that our society tells itself.  To a large extent, this process involves recognizing and tapping into the underlying images in our collective unconscious.  We also have power as individuals to bring about changes in our daily lives by strategically placing the images we see and creating new stories to accompany them. Just having a good place to keep one’s stories can go a long way in itself.

on 01/12/11 in featured, The Unconscious | 6 Comments | Read More

Comments (6)


  1. Mark Stairwalt says:

    Hey now, I’ll not be accused of leading the witness. :-) Did I suggest that about your locker? Or did you glean it from our exchange?

  2. Gwen McKay says:

    A bit of both, perhaps…

  3. Stephanie says:


    I put off my fiction for years-first to raise the boys, then to finish my education, then to start my business.

    While I had ideas (the brown folder-but I was never really that organized), and I had a novel (the blue folder, but full and not very good), I just couldn’t get up the inspiration to write.

    Then, a friend of mine wanted my help working on a novel. So, I made fiction important, because I wanted to help her get past her depression. That project didn’t work out, but it did jump start my own fiction again.

    I think instead of waiting for inspiration, you might want to force yourself to just get to work. Sit down for half an hour or an hour to work on your fiction. Force yourself to go through the motions. It might not be good; it might not be fun. But, I think, soon enough the creative juices will flow and it’ll be both good and fun.

  4. Gwen McKay says:

    Thanks for the reminder about the power of habit, Stephanie; it’s a point well taken.

    I’ve written part of a new short story and will probably post it here next week. :)

  5. Stephanie says:

    You’re welcome. I look forward to reading it!

    I also write fantasy fiction, and I’m working on a novel (well, two, but that’s another story). So, if you’d like to exchange feedback and encouragement, feel free to e-mail me or, if you don’t get the address the way Mark does, to use my contact form: http://www.stephanieallencrist.com/Contact-Me.php.

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