Sometimes I like writing in stream of consciousness; where I open my mind and type whatever I think. It sounds like this beautiful, etherial, out-of-body experience when in actuality it’s more like a brain dump – where everything comes out on the paper, unfiltered, and then I sift through the aftermath to see if there’s anything worth saving.
I wrote my first SOC piece for NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I was desperate to make my word count before midnight and in a panic just wrote down whatever came to mind. I enjoyed the process so much that I created a collection of other writings, developing some fascinating storylines along the way.
It’s one of my favorite ways to play with writing. If I get stuck on something, or don’t feel motivated to work on any other projects, I sit still and let my mind wander. Then I start typing any old thing that comes to into my head, doesn’t matter what it is – could be my shopping list or the migratory patterns of Canadian geese, the point is it doesn’t matter. I just let the thoughts flow and type them as they come along, no judgments. Then one interesting sentence will hook onto another, then another, and the next thing I know I’m on a roll. Sentences link to sentences and eventually I settle into something that starts to look like a real story.
Here’s an example I wrote a while ago:
He’s an older man now, with different levels of awareness. Sometimes he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, and he wants to slip into a sleep. But try not to let him, because he needs to tell you all about it so you don’t do the same thing. He knows how it goes, been there before, he understands more than you know. And he loves you. And his giraffe. That thing, we can’t get rid of it. It follows him everywhere, and demands special compensation for its travel. The neck is so long and the head so high up, you can’t even feed it with your hand like a normal pet. It has to spread its front legs and drop it’s head all the way down to take the plant out of your hand. That’s how the alligators get them.
And the one he has was rescued from an alligator. It had its head in its jaws, but someone came along in the nick of time and shot the alligator dead. So now we mourn the loss of this life, as well as any life, because one life isn’t more important than another. Or worth more than another. It’s all the same, everything is equal, like two halves of an Oreo cookie. And an Oreo tastes as good as the real thing, every time. You don’t have to worry about any alligators, and it’s even safe for giraffes. But he knows all this, and can tell you about it at any time.
Just don’t get him started on the apes. Particularly the silverback he once had as his best friend. No one knows exactly what happened to him – some say he just walked back into the jungle of his own accord, others think he was hit by a bus and lay on the roadside in excruciating pain for hours before death finally released him from his mangled body. That’s not a pretty picture, especially if you’re eating Oreos, so we don’t think of that explanation. Losing a life in that way, it seems like such a waste. It’s not the way that a friend of his should go. It should be that his friend was surrounded by family and loved ones, and then lowered respectfully into the dirt to become fertilizer for a beautiful tree. That would be the best way for anyone to go.
The following are the steps I recommend to do your own SOC writing:
- Set a goal: Either a time limit, or a word count.
- Clear your head: Take a deep breath and calm all the thoughts in your mind.
- Start typing the first thing that pops in your mind: Literally the first thing that comes into your mind – no matter how stupid or mundane or rude or whatever ‘edit-shackles’ you want to put on yourself. Just WRITE.
- Continue until you reach your goal: If a story idea grabs you, run with it.
Stream of consciousness can be a liberating way to get through tough bouts of writer’s block, or to train your brain just to have some fun. How’d it work for you? Let me know in the comments below!