It doesn't make me see things that aren't there or insist that you said something you didn't say. Instead, it waits until I'm deep in the flow and writing away before pulling a rabbit out of its hat.
Several months ago I gave my PhD supervisor an early draft of pieces of the novel as well as a draft of a short story I've been working on for a year or so now. One of her most important comments was about characters' names. Without realizing it, I had named three characters after people. One was long dead but a famous historic personage. Fair enough. But the other two are very much alive, people I've never met, but friends of hers AND well-known in the SF/F community. Somehow their names wormed their way into my subconscious and then popped back out when I was in need.
Now that I think of it, I've not done a check to be sure that the new names I chose for the characters don't also belong to people famous or infamous.
The trickery doesn't stop with names. Nor is it always such a negative thing.
I'm working without a plan, without an outline. I don't tend to write that way, and I don't particularly LIKE writing that way. But it's how this novel has happened, and I'm on a deadline and can't wait for the diamond-encrusted muses to get back to me, so I'm writing by the seat of my pants.
I come up with a lot of ideas, and solve a lot of problems, in the 'in-between'--that state between being awake and being asleep. Having a notebook and pen next to the bed are necessary. When I'm writing by the seat of my pants, I have to trust a sort of waking 'in-between' (flow, the zone, whatever you call it) to keep me moving forward. Last week I was working on the Victorian section of the novel, in which a young girl, the daughter of an estate's head gardener, meets her aunt for the first time. I'd recently discovered Julia Margaret Cameron, the Victorian-era photographer, and used her as inspiration when creating the aunt character. She takes her niece, on the day of their first meeting, out into the grounds to show her what the camera does. The niece stands against a tree, where her aunt photographs her. The girl's dress and the tree are much the same color, but it's her face that shines out from the shadows, her look stern.
I finished writing the scene, sat back in my chair, and looked up at the bulletin board above my desk. Right at a photograph--one of many I've bought over the years at antiques stores and flea markets--of a young girl in Edwardian dress, standing in front of a large tree trunk, her clothes and the tree of similar hue, her face clear and light, with a harsh look in her eyes.
As a writer I like to think that the ideas I come up with are original, but I know better. Plus, this way is more interesting.