Week 4 – Stream-of-consciousness writing
by Jean Knighton-Fitt
Continue with your daily record, but move, this week, into an exploration of the harnessing of the right brain for your writing.
Day 1: By time you were 12-18 months old you had probably watched people using pens and pencils, and knew they were for making marks on paper. When you found yourself alone with these two things together you likely decided to experiment with the physical power of making your own marks on life. So now … grab a piece of paper – big if you can, otherwise your writing book – and a pen, pencil or crayon. Using your left hand to get you back into the vulnerable state of early youth, relive that pre-memory experience of making your mark, and just scribble. Let go. Enjoy yourself and see how much of the page you can cover. Then, in your writing book, record the feelings that bubbled up: the power of you and your pen over the paper. (You may, later, like to colour in some of the shapes!)
Day 2: After a few years you began to realise that squiggles on paper were a form of communication … there was a way of getting mind-power over the paper. When I was six my mother kept me back from starting school because I’d been ill, but I desperately wanted to write. My big sister of nine was learning cursive writing – ‘real writing’ we called it – and every day I insisted she mark my writing attempts – with a ring around whichever were ‘real’ letters.
*As an exercise, today, use your left hand to write down what you remember about learning to write.
Day 3: ‘Stream-of-consciousness’ writing is a primary and important skill to develop. It means writing down what streams through your mind, without stopping to ponder or criticise it.
Imagine it like this: as you write the pen draws the words out of your hand, which draws them from your arm … your shoulder … your neck … your head. As long as you keep the pen moving your mind will continue to flow freely down onto the paper. But you must keep on writing. If you suddenly go blank don’t stop to sit and think, just keep the pen moving by writing “I don’t know what to write…” till another thought pops up. Stopping dries up the flow. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or following any special order.
*Take up your pen now and freely write what streams through your mind at the thought of ‘Teeth’ OR ‘speed’ OR ‘grandparents”.
Day 4: From now on give yourself 10 minutes for this sort of exercise. A time-constraint will help remove the counter-productive tendency to stop and think how to write ‘well’. Remember at school, in the last 10 minutes of an exam, how the time pressure knocked out all unnecessary wondering and wordiness? And you just wrote like your life depended on it. Well, write like that. (If you can use a timer you will not be distracted by having to keep looking at your watch. It’s tick-tick-tick will help keep you moving!)
*Do 10-minutes of timed writing on ‘bathing’ OR ‘earning power’.
Day 5: Do 10-minutes of timed writing on ‘contemporary music’ OR ‘make-up’.
Day 6: A helpful variation of this exercise is to take a topic like “I feel happy when….”, and write for five minutes, then switch to “I feel unhappy when….” OR “I like people who….” and “I dislike people who….” Writing in this way helps you get to the ‘under-belly’ of your thoughts and feelings.
*Choose one of those alternatives and write for ten minutes.
Day 7: Today consider where you have arrived in your attempts to write regularly. How are you feeling about it? Write down your thoughts and identify problems you have encountered. Write down ideas for how you can get through or around those problems