Stream of consciousness is an activity we do at the beginning of every Seaside Writing session.

I think of it as a ritual. As a performance required in order to enter writing projects, cleansed and clear.

In this article Seaside Writing creator, Alex Christopher, shares a little history to the tool, its benefits, how to get into stream of consciousness writing if it’s proving difficult, what it can achieve and what you need to look out for when doing it.

Akin to the sun salutations in yoga, stream of consciousness writing’s purpose is to warm everyone up. It indicates the beginning sequence required before approaching the main task.

As Aimee Louise, a Seaside Writer, artfully explained, stream of consciousness writing “deletes the junk” of your mind; the junk that clogs up your thinking and stops the juicy, exciting, creative ideas to flow.

Just like a good set of sun salutations, it eases the creaks out of the body and mind and prepares you for rest of what’s to come.

History of Stream of Consciousness Writing

Stream of consciousness writing has a history in psychology. According to Wikipedia the term was coined by William James in 1890 in his The Principles of Psychology. In this context it asked of patients to explore their thoughts by sharing them with the page in an unstructured manner, which gave the individual and psychologist a text from which to analyse the person’s thinking or psyche.

Stream of consciousness at Seaside Writing; however, does not ask of you to relook at what you’ve written, it simply asks you to write it out and feel the joy of space in the mind.

Stream of consciousness writing is also used in the theatre and script-writing context — to share the internal monologue of the character. Some of Shakespeare’s sililoquy’s sound a lot like stream of conscious writing might if read aloud.

So how does it work?

I say to always start with a new page.

I also say to take a deep breath and to tap into the thoughts swirling in your mind. The goal is to grab your thoughts and place them on the page with as much articulation as possible, though a strong sentence and fruity words are not what you’re aiming for.

It’s often that your stream of consciousness writing is elliptical or fragmentary in nature – just like thoughts are usually. You can be on one train of thought for a bit and then – sideswipe – your consciousness changes its focus. And so on and on.

The point is to transcribe the lines that are involved in your thinking and take them from that internal mind-space to the space outside of you, however ridiculous and haphazard it sounds.

Come to your senses

It can be tricky. So if isolating thoughts to write them down is proving difficult, I suggest people come to their senses. By that I mean, tune in to the five senses to help you connect with yourself.

One of the beauties of Seaside Writing is that we are writing in a sensual environment. We hear the waves licking the shore, we smell salty air, we taste fresh chai tea or bitter-delicious coffee, we see vast blue on the horizon and we feel the breeze on our skin. By writing down the sensations we’re experiencing, we are lulling our system to become present, to slow down, and I bet, in time, our thoughts are better able to turn inward. Those individual thoughts become easier to see when we tap into the sensual experience.

In doing stream of consciousness writing, I have realised my mind is like a city, high-rise apartment block. I think in layers and compartments all at the same time. There are many apartments in a block, perhaps ten stories high. People are going about their activities and having conversations in their own space, all at the same time. Our thoughts are non-linear and more than one dimensional in this way too. So writing them out can feel like you’re running up and down stairs, catching the lift and trying to say hello to everyone in the apartment simultaneously.

Another analogy: our thoughts are like a washing machine. Everything gets jumbled up and you can’t decipher one clear thread. So to pull out a clothing item piece by piece, until the washing machine is empty, you can then observe each item on the line and determine which ones (or which thoughts/matters) to deal with, delete or other.

No judgment

Once writing flow is there, and we are streaming the words from our minds to the page, the aim is to show no judgment to what is coming forth. The thoughts are what they are. They are coming, in the way that they are, for a purpose.

It’s very easy to get caught up in, “Well I should be writing about this”, and “it’s not right to say or feel that”… As above, the thoughts are what they are. You can throw the words in the bin at the end of the session (remember we have no need to reread any of it!). There’s no attachment to the words required at all.

Allow the words that are coming up naturally to guide what you are putting down. Don’t try to overthink what you should be focusing on. When we get into a flow sometimes you’ve just got to ride the current.

It’s not Nobel Prize Literature worthy

Nope. What comes out is likely to be the biggest codswallop you’ll ever have heard. There may be part sentences, spelling mistakes, and glorious hyperbole. Roll around like a pig in mud with it. It’s the only time you’ll get away with it!

Stream of consciousness writing reveals your internal monologue simply to get it out. So there’s absolute freedom to let the words just roll out of your brain on the page – true to form in the mind.

It’s not journaling

Many people may see the similarities stream of consciousness writing has with journaling. Journaling usually has an expressionistic, story-telling flavour i.e. what happened in the beginning, middle and end of your day, plus your articulate reflections on what the day presented and how you feel about them.

Stream of consciousness has no narrative restrictions, we’re not trying to find any thread of cohesive thought, or general feeling and then comment on it. It’s just transcribing what’s swirling in your head to the page. However it comes.

Detoxification

I presented on writing at a yoga conference once. It was under the heading or topic of Kriyas.

It made me realise the outcome of writing can be detoxifying for the mind. In drawing out your thoughts it can pull bad things from you. It’s like an extraction. Like those patches you put on the bottom of your feet that draw out the bad toxins from your system while you sleep.

In a similar vein, one lady at Seaside Writing said after a session once that writing that day felt like she’d had a big, sports massage. She was thirsty, her limbs felt heavy and she was partially catatonic. She’d been so in the zone of writing in flow that she completely forgot her body.

She’d cleansed herself in a way that defies my knowledge base. But she had articulated something that I had experienced too. Writing stream of conscious style can make you feel a bit pummelled – like a massage.

So it’s good to be aware of the mind-body connection and perhaps have some water and a few nourishing breaths in at the end of your session.

Be careful

Honesty and opening up through stream of conscious writing can be quite…how do I say….emotional. Stream of consciousness can delete the junk of our minds, but in so doing can also open up passed hurts and difficult experiences especially if they are not fully healed.

Go with it. The process can also help you to help yourself heal. Seek support if you feel overwhelmed.

Stream of consciousness writing is the beginning ritual of Seaside writing for many reasons.

It’s a challenge, it’s freeing, it’s cleansing, it’s restorative. It’s worth the difficulty in getting going, sticking with it, feeling pummelled and emotional. You are presented with all that you can handle.

Give it a go in a fresh book, with a fresh page each day.

Aim for five or ten minutes of writing before any project session and see and feel the results.

{ Alex Christopher, Seaside Writing Creator }

 

Check out the Seaside Writing shop for some stream of consciousness journals.