Every story has a hidden life—a soul, if you will. How writers tend this soul significantly affects our work and our well-being. This tending is really active listening. It’s both willful, sprung from the self, and responsive, heeding that life-force beyond the story and its readership.
But this is our progression when learning an art, and (I suspect) when living life: First we’re unconscious, then we’re self-conscious, and then we’re aware of being self-conscious, which is truly agonizing. Only then can we come into consciousness and make conscious choices that shape our lives.