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The Hidden Power of Stream of Consciousness Writing

by | Jan 9, 2023 | Writing

Some of the best things you do as a writer are often an accident.

That’s what happened to me as an online writer. Years ago when I started, I’d just write what was on my mind in one sitting and hit publish.

I had no idea what it was.

One reader emailed me and said “that stream of consciousness writing technique you do is so cool. How do you do it?”

I couldn’t explain it. I googled the technique as research for this story. It doesn’t look like it’s really a thing. Or at least not in the way I do it.

What is Stream of Consciousness Writing

Stream of consciousness writing starts when you sit down to write about a topic in a flow state.

A flow state in this context is when you work out, drink some coffee, have a warm shower to relax, then sit down to write.

After about 15 minutes you’re in the zone. Writing feels effortless. The perception of time disappears. Four hours can feel like one hour. It’s almost like an out-of-body experience.

The result is you write deeply about a topic without stopping.

What’s bizarre is sometimes an external event triggers a stream of consciousness writing session. For example, when a loved one has died I’ve sat down several times in a highly emotional state to write.

The type of writing that comes out is different.

The emotion blends with the power of the moment to produce something purely beautiful that could never be pre-planned or rehearsed.

What I’ve found bizarre about stream of consciousness writing is thoughts you never knew you could have come out onto the page.

The dots in your brain join together in a weird way. It’s as if your intuition is leading the way in this odd art form.

Let me show you the techniques that makeup stream of consciousness writing. They break all the traditional rules you’ve been taught, which is where the hidden writing power is found.

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1. Publish soon after you write

With traditional writing you tend to sit on it.

You let it marinate. You take your time. You read it over and over to see if more tweaks could be made. Stream of consciousness writing is different.

The idea is you hit publish as quick as possible.

A great example is my free newsletter. I write it every week using the stream of consciousness writing mindset. All sorts of wild thoughts come out. Then I read it over once, run it through Grammarly, and hit publish.

The time from writing to publication is short. It stops me from self-censoring or becoming overly romantic about what I’ve written.

Readers feel the difference.

2. Think less to write better

It’s easy to overthink a topic.

Traditional writing allows for selfishness to take over, or to have thoughts of how you’ll be perceived after publishing a piece. So you have the guts to write a bold piece, but with enough time you talk yourself out of doing it like a hostage negotiator.

It turns out I’m not the only one that figured out stream of consciousness writing is the answer to these common problems.

Blogger, Jack Butcher, reported the same feeling.

Condense your thinking into the writing session itself and then let the publish button disconnect any further thinking.

3. Fill in the blanks later

I find stream of consciousness writing works best when telling your own stories or sharing vulnerable moments.

This writing doesn’t require a lot of research or outside sources.

It can work for writing that needs research too, though. The key is to outline the article as quickly as possible and go back and fill in the blanks later. You can always backfill a piece with research if need be.

But switching back and forth between your writing software and a google chrome tab kills the mood. What should feel easy starts to feel hard. Research weighs the brain down so do it afterward.

4. Forget about grammar

The grammar hippies are pissed at me for this one.

Grammar is fine but in informal writing, such as this style, it’s a real brain drain. There’s this myth that great writing or viral blogging has to have perfect grammar. Wrong.

Go to Reddit and look at some of the most popular writing ever to be published on the platform. You’ll see most of it has terrible grammar. Why? It’s stream of consciousness writing.

The writer has seen a question or a prompt and felt the need to respond in the moment with raw, unfiltered thoughts.

The result is pure gold.

If they’d thought too much about commas and full stops it would have ruined the moment. The peculiar mood they were in may not have ever eventuated. The post “No Zero Days” on Reddit is a great example.

5. Consume content to create the dots

Stream of consciousness writing is a culmination of all the stuff stuck inside your head.

When you sit down to write in this style everything that you’ve consumed comes out in bizarre ways you could never imagine. There’s some slight prep though.

You need to consume content regularly.

That way, when you sit down to do a stream of consciousness writing session, there’ll be plenty of insight to escape your brain. It’s as if all that content you consume creates dots in your head.

Then when you start to write in this effortless state they join together to produce something truly spectacular.

Final Thought

The stream of consciousness writing technique has produced some of the best writing in the world. The trouble is we don’t know.

Much of the writing produced in this style isn’t known unless the author decides to share their writing process.

One piece that was written in this style was Mark Manson’s famous blog post “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.” In an interview he shares how he had come home from a bad Christmas with his family.

All of the crap inside his head forced him to sit down and just write this banger of a piece. It went mega-viral and became a New York Times Bestseller. If Mark hadn’t written in this free-flowing style, we might never have heard his name.

Secretly, many of my best articles are also a result of stream of consciousness writing. Now you know. So my challenge for you is to try this style out for yourself.

What would happen if you broke all the rules and published faster than you normally do?

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