One of the genre’s greatest heroes, Virginia Woolf

Sometimes just getting everything out there, down on paper, to be seen by the eyes not the mind is freeing.  Its a release to not worry about grammatical structures, transitions, and all of the little stylistic things that make writing come alive and give you an A on a paper.  No, writing itself, free and unhindered, when you hit that space and the mind flies blank and filled all at once, a zone of sorts that only you have the access key to.  Only you know the password because its your password. And that password takes you into that zone where everything is unreadable but it comes to you, quickly, needing to get out.  And only when you get it out do  you realize what you were feeling, what you were trying to say.  Its as if the damn of words in your head has broken loose and you can finally see through the waterfall of thoughts now cascading, because that’s what those words have now become: thoughts.  And those thoughts flow now, faster and faster as you move farther into your zone.  When you finish reading the thoughts that have somehow managed to find their way onto paper, you realize that the thoughts have become meaningful building blocks. An actual outline of half-finished sentences, somewhat intelligible to the random stranger if they know how to look, to read, the words to your soul.  This odyssey into your zone is like the ocean and all the waves moving back and forth, an ebb and flow, transporting you here and there and here and there, and your body gently sways because you don’t have to think, you just have to feel.  The thoughts are already there, but you are finally giving your mind the permission to release them, outside the normal confines of stress, of life, you are you now.  Exploring that safe place in your mind, connecting with the sounds you hear outside.  There is no parameter, no measuring stick, that judges some thoughts, some words useless.  Everything is permissible. Everything must be written down.

The above paragraph is filled with typos, grammatical errors, half-baked sentences, and randomly connected thoughts.  The above paragraph is a form of stream of consciousness writing.  I first began to explore this particular style in high school.  Then, I forgot about it for a while.  Recently, it has come back to my attention.

Stream of consciousness is a characterized as a more natural method of writing.  Or, at least it is supposed to seem that way.  It’s commonly utilized to show thought processes, add character personality, add a more personal narrative tone.  James Joyce and Virginia Woolf use various forms of stream of consciousness writing such as interior monologues and soliloquies.

From James Joyce’s Ulysses:

James Joyce perfected the the genre in Ulysses.

“…I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Now when writing a story, be it a novel or a short story, this style of writing will still have some boundaries, some cohesiveness keeping everything together.  But, it will still seem more natural.  There will be an ebb and flow to the general direction of monologue, but like most thoughts in our head, there will be some dissonance, breaking up the natural rhythm.  The lack or addition of punctuation, the order of the words given, and the level of the words, all become a part of who the character is, who the narrator is.

In the above clip, lack of punctuation gives prominence to Molly (the character thinking the above)’s descent into passion, the after-sex and before-sex passionate lethargy.  Her thoughts are all focused around this event in some way, but within that event they run wild between memories, associations, and desire, all culminating in that final “Yes.”

It is also a great journaling method when writer’s block hits.  What it does is get everything out onto paper (or your computer screen).  In writing there’s a cliche that many times we don’t know what we’ve written, what we’ve created, what we were thinking, till we read it on paper.  Often times, those “ah ha” moments come when we’ve given ourselves the freedom to write, just write.  No constraints on what we put down or how we put it down.  The purpose is to just get it down as it comes into your head.

When you have finished, you can go back and read it, and perhaps you may find that nugget of inspiration hidden amid the rambling run-ons.

One thought on “Stream of Consciousness

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