The Artist’s Journey, #15

Here in our fifteenth week of this serialization of The Artist’s Journey, we’re finally getting into my favorite part—the airy-fairy part. I can make no scientific claim to anything put forward in “Book Six  The Artist and the Unconscious.” It’s all personal and idiosyncratic, just stuff that I believe is true (though I can’t prove it) from my own experience. From this point to the end of the book, that’s what’s coming. To catch up on any prior posts, click these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11Part 12. Part 13. Part 14.


The artist learns how to help others and how to be helped. She learns how to steal and how to give away.

She studies the marketplace and comes to understand it (as much as it can be understood.)

She acquires perspective on herself and her work and the place of her work within the field of her contemporaries and of those who have gone before.

She studies the work of the masters who have preceded her. She learns to appreciate them and to respect the gifts they have bequeathed to her.

She acquires humility and she gains self-belief.

She learns to self-motivate.

To self-validate.

To self-reinforce.

And to self-evaluate.

She has become a professional.

Now when someone asks her what she does, she answers without hesitation, “I’m an artist.”



It’s easy for Bob Dylan or Neil Young to say, “I’m never going back to work in the bean fields.”

What about you and me?

Can we say it and mean it?



Now we come to the mystical level. The right brain. The Dionysian.

What are the stages of the artist’s journey on this plane?


B  O  O  K     S  I  X

T H E   A R T I S T   A N D   T H E   U N C O N S C I O U S



We hear (and we know, ourselves) of the terror that writers experience when confronting the blank page.

Rather than face this, they will delay, dilate, demur, procrastinate, rationalize, cop out, self-justify, self-exonerate, not to mention become drunks and drug addicts, cheat on their spouses, lose themselves on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and in general destroy not only their bodies and minds but their souls as well.


What’s so scary about an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of uncoated bond?



What’s scary is that, in order to write (or paint or compose or shoot film), we have two choices:

  1. We can work from our ego-minds, in which case we will burst blood vessels and suffer cerebral hernias, straining only to produce tedious, mediocre, derivative crap.
  2. We can shift our platform of effort from our conscious mind to our unconscious.

Can you guess which one we’re most terrified of?



The Unconscious (to use the term as Freud originally defined it) is unconscious only to us.

We are unconscious of its contents.

But the Unconscious mind is not unconscious to itself or of itself.

The Unconscious is wide awake.

It knows exactly what it’s doing.

(And it’s pretty pissed off at being called “the Unconscious.”



Instead let’s call it the Superconscious. That’s what it is.

The superconscious is that part of our psyche that knows where we put our keys when our conscious mind is certain we’ve lost them.

It’s that part of our brain that divines, in .0001 second, that that very attractive, bewitching, charismatic new person we just met is big-time trouble.

It’s that part of our mind that wakes us at precisely the minute we set our mental alarm clocks to.

It’s that part of our consciousness, if we’re a wildebeest, that guides us infallibly from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara, or, if we’re a Monarch butterfly (with a brain the size of the head of a pin), three thousand miles from eastern North America to the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico, even though not a single butterfly in the migration has made the trip before.

The superconscious is that part of our psyche that dreams, that intuits. According to Jung, it’s that part that lies adjacent to and is linked with the “Divine Ground.”

The superconscious is the part of our mind that speaks in our true voice, knows our true subject, and makes decisions from our true point of view.

The superconscious is the part of our psyche that enabled Einstein to conceive the Special Theory of Relativity and Steph Curry to hit nineteen three-pointers in a row with an opponent’s hand in his face on every shot.

Tolstoy didn’t write War and Peace. His superconscious did.

Picasso didn’t paint Guernica. His superconscious did.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn’t create South Park, their superconsciouses did.

I’ve got a superconscious, and so do you.

Our problem, you and I, is that we don’t know how to access it or, if we do, we’re too terrified to take the chance.

The artist’s journey is about linking the conscious mind to the superconscious. It’s about learning to shuttle back and forth between the two.




Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1


A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Mary Doyle on May 23, 2018 at 6:15 am

    This is going to be my favorite part of this series – thanks in advance and keep it coming!

  2. Susan Setteducato on May 23, 2018 at 6:25 am

    I find myself waiting for these now, looking for them on Wednesday mornings. They are nourishment.

  3. Daniel J. Stutzman on May 23, 2018 at 6:32 am

    Wait, don’t stop..More, MORE!

  4. BarbaraNH on May 23, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Oh, yeah – Wednesdays are the best because of starting with these. Thanks!

  5. Cathy Ryan on May 23, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Yeah, Superconscious. Smiling here. This is the mystic part.

  6. Graham Glover on May 23, 2018 at 6:51 am

    As a photographer, my “blank page” is my blank memory card. My leman is the camera and lens I’ve chosen for a project. She’s it. She’s ready when I am, but I must make the first photo. It’s like a first kiss, awkward yes, but only as good as I want to make it. She knows if I mean it. Is it mechanical or is it full of feeling? That first photo, that first kiss, says, “Okay, we’re here together. I trust you, and I trust I made the perfect choice with you. I like you! We’re going to have fun together. Let’s go!”

  7. Julie Murphy on May 23, 2018 at 7:04 am

    Another post for the record books. Whether it’s strength, validation or inspiration; I never leave hungry from your writing.

    Thanks, Steve.

  8. Joe Jansen on May 23, 2018 at 7:04 am

    I’m not sure where these are coming from, but the words in my head right now are: “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”

    There’s a book out recently by Michael Pollan, which he talked about with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” (15 May). “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.” He also had a story in the NYTimes that same day (google will find it). He talked about some of his personal experiences while researching and writing the book, and this part spoke to the same things Steve is writing about up there. About this level of awareness, a level of consciousness, that stand apart (above, behind, below — is “direction” even relevant?) from the ego-consciousness that we typically identify as “ME” or “I.” Excerpt from his NYTimes piece:

    “I watched as that familiar self began to fall apart before my eyes, gradually at first and then all at once.

    “I” now turned into a sheaf of little papers, no bigger than Post-its, and they were being scattered to the wind. But the “I” taking in this seeming catastrophe had no desire to chase after the slips and pile my old self back together. No desires of any kind, in fact.

    But who was this “I” that was able to take in the scene of its own dissolution? Good question. It wasn’t I, exactly. Here the limits of our language become a problem: In order to completely make sense of the divide that had opened up in my perspective, I would need a whole new first-person pronoun. For what was observing the scene was a vantage and mode of awareness entirely distinct from my accustomed self. Where that self had always been a subject encapsulated in this body, this one seemed unbounded by any body, even though I now had access to its perspective. That perspective was supremely indifferent, unperturbed even in the face of what should have been an unmitigated personal disaster.

    Is Pollan not describing the superconscious?

    • Brian S Nelson on May 23, 2018 at 9:07 am

      I listened to Pollan on the Tim Ferriss podcast. Bought the book on Audible, but haven’t listened yet. On the never-ending list…

      Jordan Peterson often quotes Jung (when talking about psychedelics) ‘be wary of unearned knowledge…’ which I think means if not prepared, there is a likelihood of a bad trip.

      I would agree with your thoughts, I think Pollan is describing the superconscious.

      • Joe Jansen on May 23, 2018 at 10:54 am

        Glad I looked back in here, Brian. I’m out trail walking and looking for something to listen to. You just gave it to me. Thanks!

        • Joe Jansen on May 23, 2018 at 11:02 am

          Oh, and not advocating for or against for any person, but Pollan describes a controlled environment with trained male and female guides, “pre-flight instructions” on what to expect and how to deal with scary or unpleasant images. “Don’t run away. Plant your feet and ask, ‘What are you here to teach me.’” And a curated music list.

          I look at and I see almost two dozen FDA-approved studies at some stage. I’m sure he talks with Tim Ferriss about some of this stuff. Going off to listen now. Appreciate the tip!

  9. Lyn on May 23, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Oh, you’re definitely getting to the best part now! I’m loving this. The truth that many dare not speak. Truth is by nature, beyond the physical. “Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 2:18

    Superconscious. That’s great!

    Finding out who you “really are” is unlocking the door to Infinity. Time to wake up.

    I’m absolutely loving the Artist’s Journey! Yes! Yes! More…please 🙂

  10. Rich on May 23, 2018 at 7:32 am

    This serialization has been the perfect weekly retreat from working on my new screenplay. At once sobering, reassuring, delightful, and devastating. THANK YOU FOR SHARING!

  11. Peter Brockwell on May 23, 2018 at 8:49 am

    This work from Steve is edifying and nourishment. It’s almost poetry, as if Steve is secretly trying to hypnotize my right hemisphere into taking a more active role. Without overstating the matter, Wednesday’s post is the lynchpin of my week, and keeps my artistic self crawling forward while the grinding thirteen-hour days as a cop pay my bills.

    But here’s the thing – I no longer trust nor even hear my right hemisphere after a lifetime in this heavily left-hemisphere driven modern world. With 50-60 sleep-deprived hours a week spent in the salt mines, frantically typing into spreadsheets and writing reports, eighty emails per day, and all the other repetitive and draining BS of the modern workplace, my right brain has all but given up and put itself into a despair-induced coma.

    How do I encourage it out. And how do I recognise it when it speaks?

    I know Steve has the answer and I need it.


    • Beth Barany on May 23, 2018 at 11:57 am

      I’m so glad, Peter! Please do continue with your creative work!

      I for one am so curious about what YOU have to share with us!


    • AS on May 26, 2018 at 3:41 am

      Peter I know it might feel like adding one more demand to the massive left-brain load you are carrying…but consider scheduling a meditation period into your day, 20 minutes morning and late afternoon is considered adequate for modern westerners…but you would get many benefits from just one session per day.

      Learn a technique that uses the breath…you sit quietly and observe your breathing. Your right brain/superconscious/art mind will relax and flourish in the stillness and you’ll start to hear your ideas flowing again..even in the midst of the dreaded workplace. Youtube has good meditation tutorials.

      Many studies done showing huge range of benefits including Harvard:

      “A new study from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center finds that eliciting the relaxation response—a physiologic state of deep rest induced by practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and prayer—produces immediate changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.”

      What the new studies don’t mention to my knowledge is the access these practices open to wider, deeper states of consciousness, i.e. the Superconscious. Try a session before your writing period.

  12. Gloria Valentino on May 23, 2018 at 9:59 am

    i can’t wait for the discovery of how to use my superconscious mind.

    hopefully this is the answer to finally stay on target and complete projects..
    ve direction.


  13. Beth Barany on May 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Steve, Yes, yes, and triple yes!

    I’ve been working the conscious-unconscious road and back again for a long time. It feels like at once a grind, one foot in front of another, and at the same time, a trip, flying untethered into the unknown. Except I’ve found a way to tether myself into the mundane while I climb down into the pit of dark and new truths or while I transport far and away where life is waiting for me to wash it with uncloaking paint.

    Thank you. I am staying tuned for more of your pearls.

  14. Bobby Vee on May 23, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Boom! Mind Blown!
    “The artist’s journey is about linking the conscious mind to the superconscious. It’s about learning to shuttle back and forth between the two.”

    Thank you,

  15. Joe Jansen on May 24, 2018 at 8:38 am

    Here was a thought: we might think in terms of “her superconscious“ or “his superconscious“ or “their superconscious.“

    What if it’s just ONE superconscious? Observing, expressing itself through all these billions of “us”?

  16. Jeff Korhan on May 25, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    I’m not sure about the bean fields, but Dylan specifically said he ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.

  17. Mel Jacob on August 5, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Really insightful. Thank you.

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