I ruminate a lot. Sometimes I go all the way back to high school and re-live scenarios; sometimes I ruminate about the future and plant a bunch of scenarios in my consciousness – some of them not too bad, actually. It wasn’t until several years ago, however, that I equated ruminating with just a mental form of the stream of consciousness. That point came home to me by way of a pretty terrible experience. I had taken a job with what soon revealed itself to be a horribly dysfunctional organization – a non-profit public one that was bloated, filled with pretty nasty back-stabbing folks – and I took it during a transition from one horrible leadership team to an equally as horrible one. I lasted 7 months before the panic attacks set in.
When I walked out of that job, I began to ruminate – and it was all pretty negative stuff. My rumination kept me up at night, and it filled my day. Somehow, it had to stop. My partner finally said to me, “Why don’t you just write all of this stuff down? That might get it out once and for all.” So I did. I engaged in the stream of consciousness writing for 8 months, and what came out of that was a pretty terrific novel, now published. Along the way, I was also able to let it all go.
To say that I am a fan of stream of consciousness writing is a proverbial understatement. Now I use it all the time, no matter what writing project I may be on. When I can’t get going, I tap into some emotions that I can feel about the topic and just “let it rip.” Like that novel, my writing ultimately gives me the short story, the blog post, or the article I need to write. I am now a master at this, and you can be too. Here are my 5 steps.
Get Myself Comfortable
Comfort for me is either my recliner (oh yes – feet up, laptop on my lap), or on my deck with feet up and umbrella overhead. I have friends who need more stimulation, so they will often go to a busy place – inside a mall, a coffee shop, or a park, where the people and places around them can act as prompts for their start. From my experience, comfort is probably the most important element, because in that state, my mind is more active.
Picking a Topic – or Not
A lot of people say you really need to pick a topic about which you have some emotion. It allows the “juices” to flow better. I have found that I can pick a topic or not. If I have something to write with a deadline, I will try to get myself somewhat excited or sad or light-hearted and amused about the topic. If I am taking on a project just for myself, say a short story, I may not have any topic at all. I’ll just start a conversation with a friend from high school or college, someone I’m irritated with, or some fictitious person. Recently, with all of the politics in the news, I have been having conversations with some of the candidates – that’s fun.
I don’t care about typos, capitals, punctuation –they just slow down the flow. You shouldn’t either. It’s matter of top sites which easily can check your mistakes. Just pour your thoughts out on the paper or screen as they come. And the lovely thing about this writing? There are no rules about what you say or how you say it – so liberating!
Keep writing until no more words will come out. You can wildly change the topic hundreds of times; you can move from lecturing a person about some harm they have done to having a talk with God about what a beautiful planet He created that we are doing our best to destroy. You can converse with the dead, the living, or a bug on the railing.
I always read what I have written, because that’s when the creative ideas can hit. Something will set off a spark, and I will know just how I am going to begin that post or article. It is pretty amazing, but I have yet to fail to get that spark of an idea.
Getting More Intense
As I have practiced this over the last few years, something else has happened, and yu will discover this too. The more you engage in this activity, the more emotionally intense your topics may become. Being hesitant at first is normal because we all have our inhibitions. But gradually, very gradually, you will tackle the more intense. When you do, it’s like a huge catharsis.
Now, the stream of consciousness writing is a part of my regular weekly schedule. Not only does it give me great ideas, but it is a part of keeping myself emotionally healthy. As your mother used to say to you about any new food – “Try it, you’ll like it.”