Stream-of-Consciousness Writing: What It Is and Why I Do It
Ok, so I think I’m about to unfold some serious enlightenment for those of you who have never tried stream-of-consciousness writing before. So pull up a seat and get ready. I started practicing this in elementary school when my third grade teacher introduced it as a way to combat writer’s block and get our creative juices flowing… and 22 years later I am still an avid believer in the practice.
So, you may be thinking what the hell is stream-of-consciousness writing and why would I need to do it? I call it a brain dump, but basically it’s just an exercise where you challenge yourself to write non-stop (non-stop being the key, here) for an allotted amount of time. I usually like to do 10-15 minutes, but if you are new to this maybe start with 2-5 minutes and work your way up. If you find writing really easy, maybe challenge yourself to longer. I’ve also seen others do it where they try to write a certain amount, like fill up one or two pages completely. Whatever is clever. And yes, writing non-stop for 15 minutes may sound pretty challenging. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not. But once you start going, don’t stop! You might just be writing down words or phrases, you may be repeating yourself, you may be writing in circles… A lot of times when I start I write things like “I don’t know what to say” or “I’m really tired,” but once I get going I’m usually pretty surprised and impressed with what comes out. Don’t overthink, don’t force it just let your thoughts, feelings and ideas flow.
I think this is an awesome practice for literally anyone and everyone. I mean who doesn’t want (or need) to clear their mind? Personally, I’ve always loved writing, but the thought of a diary intimidates me. But having a notebook or journal where I practice free flow writing for about 10 minutes a couple times a week is much more doable. I like to use the same journal every time to keep everything organized and be able to keep it, but you can totally do this on sheets of paper, too. It may sound cheesy, but I find this practice to be extremely cathartic and relaxing. It’s a great way to release stress or allow myself to work through problems I’ve been overthinking in my head by getting my feelings out on paper. It’s also nice to just be creative and write whatever I want. I never share it with anyone so it is personal and private, and something about that is very reassuring. And if you don’t feel the need to release stress, it’s also just as much a creative brain storming exercise as it is a brain dump. A lot of times you start off pretty shallow and kind of surface level, but once you get going it’s easier to open up and get to the good ideas, the deep thought, the real emotions — it’s in there somewhere, I promise. Don’t be afraid to let it out. What you write may surprise you.
Have you ever practiced free flow writing or stream-of-consciousness writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If not, do you have any techniques to deal with stress or over thinking?