3. Stream of Consciousness


What is a stream of consciousness?

Like brainstorming, the stream of consciousness is a literary tool that permits you to write and think freely without having to worry about external factors like criticism or grammar. The stream of consciousness is the continuous flow of thoughts, feelings, memories, physical sensations, and whatever else may exist in your mind.

What is the purpose of the stream of consciousness in creative writing?

Because it is meant to induce spontaneity and uninhibited writing, it is often unpunctuated, formless, and disjointed—a reproduction of the interior monologue of our mind’s voice. Streams of consciousness are meant to be read by the writer alone so that the writing can be done quickly, with unselfconscious abandon; the less self-controlled, the better.

The stream of consciousness can help you tap into your subconscious.

The stream of consciousness can help you tap into your subconscious.

The purpose of the stream of consciousness is to write without restraints—without self-restraint, without grammatical restraint, without moral restraint, and certainly without the restraint of years of societal education and the fears of “what people will say.”

Overcoming “La brutta figura”

There is an expression in Italian—“fare la brutta figura”—translated as making a bad impression, and most social restraints emerge from this fear of making one. It is precisely this fear that will prevent you from showing up to someone’s house without a really good wine or telling your colleagues what you truly think.

Many novice writers reel from what they discover lies in their subconscious, believing that they cannot possibly ever publish that, because imagine what their mothers will say! What a brutta figura that would be!

This concept of the brutta figura must be ousted like the terrible dictator that it is. Imagine if Nabokov had never written Lolita because he was afraid that the world would psychoanalyze him and label him a repressed pedophile! As a writer, you must develop a thick skin to defend yourself from the criticisms (and yes, there will be criticism) of family, the excoriations of the critics, and, most cruelly, the self-condemnation and doubt that have plagued most writers in history.

Trust in yourself. Have faith in your abilities and give yourself the latitude to write and write until your mind reaches a furious gallop.

Be gentle with yourself. Don’t hold anything back; let what has to come out, come out. At first you may be scandalized (“I wrote that?”), but once you get over it, you might even like what you have written.

Let yourself write for hours and hours, and then repeat the process the next day, after which you should review your work from the previous day, scanning for the diamond in the rough (one phrase, one idea, one gorgeous image). Many precious jewels can be extracted from the fertile soil of your mind, and the stream of consciousness is a great way to drill down into the subconscious.

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