Stream of Consciousness: To say or write the first thoughts that comes into your head without hesitation, no matter how disjointed, confusing or nonsensical they may be.
In celebration of writing about one of my favorite methods of brainstorming, I am going to perform this entire post using the tactic above. The only things I will edit afterwards are any spelling or grammar errors. If anything comes to mind, I will write it but because I myself can be a little disjointed, confusing and nonsensical, I apologize in advance for whatever God awful state this post becomes. Not that all my previous posts are particularly planned out, I’m a very disorganized individual at times and I swear often too so I’ll probably delete or censor any uses of the words “****, **** or *******.” Woops.
Anyway, onto the point of this drivel and that is what I like to call the “Stream of Consciousness.”
I first picked up this technique when I joined a community of writers and artists online. After spending several years without writing after losing a great deal of progress on a novel due to a PC breakdown, I was rusty and had no idea where to begin writing again. Luckily, this community was very active and had a lot of writing workshops going including what they call the “Writer’s Hot Seat.”
This involved a series of challenges or tasks which all amounted to writing 1000 or more words on a daily basis. Each session would have a particular theme and each day had a new objective. These typically lasted a week each Hot Seat.
The same week that I joined this community they were beginning a Hot Seat themed “Stream of Consciousness.” The challenge began with the first day being to write whatever the hell came to mind. The first thing I wrote amounted to “What the hell am I writing, why am I writing this, I don’t understand” and so on and so on until I just decided that it was too personal to put up publicly.
It essentially provided the ultimate outburst of every insecurity I had as a writer at the time. It outlined why I had stopped writing, how I felt stupid for letting a technical failure stop my passion and how I was concerned that I could quite possibly fail. Not at becoming a writer, I was concerned that I’d fail to even properly pursue it.
I read that stream and it gave me a surprising amount of insight into myself for speaking it. I could see where I’d hesitated to write and where the borderline was crossed into the “not give a ****” territory. That realization amused me and for some reason, it felt easier knowing that I didn’t have to hold back.
So rather than posting that personal block of text to the workshop, I wrote another 1000 words, this time beginning a story. I had no idea what I was writing about, all I can say just now is that it began with something about how worlds are created. As I wrote, I expected to be coming up with some rather typical fantasy plot. Until the first few sentences were finished and the story started to take form.
The second day was the same again with the general idea being that something new would be written but I broke the rules a little. Instead I continued the story I had worked on the day before, and I did this for the entire Hot Seat. In the case of this one, it was only five days long but those five days became the first draft of “Dream Lab.”
After the Hot Seat was completed, I looked at the results and felt completely refreshed. After years of discouragement from a single incident, I felt like I was a writer again. The fact that the spelling errors I’m going to have to correct later are at a minimum here is just a bigger boost in itself: Stream Of Consciousness saves the day again!
Seriously folks, you’ve probably heard the term “just write” a few times if you’re a writer seeking advice on how to churn out a story but I don’t think many of you will fully grasp what that means.
Just write really means just write. Put your fears and hopes and dreams in the middle of an important story narrative if they come to mind. Completely switch off from the fact that you’re typing and just type while you sit there staring into space like you’re on some kind of drug that I would never recommend for the creative process.
The brain is always active but it’s just like a muscle you regularly use. Imagine you’re punching a punchbag, if you pull your punches you won’t hit as hard. If you swing with all your might you aren’t as precise but you pack a mean punch when it connects.
That’s what your brain is doing when you let it loose with the stream. You miss so many times with the outbursts of self-doubt or what you think you’re going to watch on Netflix later (I prefer NowTv but can’t afford it, I’m still using my ex’s Netflix, if she doesn’t say anything why should I, right? Right?) (You see what I mean?) BUT when you connect with the target you started swinging for, you hit it hard!
Ignore your hesitant thoughts and your personal speculation about whether you’re writing anything of worth. THAT’S what “just write” means. It may feel like a fool’s errand when you start off but believe me, it’s worth putting in that extra force to each punch.
Because you could potentially hit gold at any moment.