Journaling Techniques: Writing on the Stream of Consciousness

by Amber Lea Starfire on February 18, 2013

Water Dance Image

Stream of Consciousness Writing begins with a simple breath meditation, after which you write associatively, allowing your words to meander along connected images, feelings, and memories. It’s not a timed process and is even less structured than freewriting,  facilitating a kind of subconscious  “mind dump” onto the page. In fact, it’s best to do Stream of Consciousness Writing when you’re not under the pressure of an immediate deadline.

The purpose of the Breath Meditation is to help you slow down, center in your physical body, and focus on the task of writing. (Instructions for the breath meditation are below the fold.)

You may have a topic in mind before you begin, or you may choose to let a topic emerge while you are meditating.

Guidelines

  • Write by hand. If you’re used to writing on the computer, like I am, you may initially feel some resistance to this guideline. Handwriting slows us down, helps us maintain a meditative frame of mind, and keeps the intuitive, subconscious part of our brain engaged. Keyboarding, on the other hand, lends itself to linear thinking.
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  • Be patient with yourself and don’t expect any great insights or “ah-ha” moments right away. This type of writing takes some practice.
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  • Allow your thoughts to go where they will. For example, if you are writing about the time you fell into a creek as a child, and you begin writing with an image of a floating branch, and the image of the floating branch stirs a memory of the time you went camping with Uncle Henry, allow yourself to write about the camping experience, and so on.

Instructions for Breath Meditation

I’m providing the following instructions for those who are not already familiar and comfortable with meditating on the breath. If you have a method you prefer to use, please feel free to use it. Read the instructions all the way through before proceeding.

  1. If you wish, put on some quiet, gentle classical or instrumental (not vocal) music.
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  2. Sit, not lie, in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
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  3. Take a deep breath, hold it … then release. As you release your breath feel your feet and toes relax.
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  4. Take another deep breath, hold it, and release, this time, feeling your calves relax.
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  5. Continue to take deep, cleansing, releasing breaths, working your way up the body.
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  6. Feel your knees, thighs, hamstrings, buttocks, low back, upper back, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers, neck, face, and brow all relax, one by one, with each breath.
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  7. When you feel completely relaxed and centered, imagine you are staring into a thick, white fog. All you see is white. Stay here until a thought or image comes to mind.
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  8. If you had a writing topic in mind when you began, notice what related image or thought arises. For example, if you began by thinking you wanted to write about a particular event in your life, notice what sensory memory comes to mind: an image, a remembered smell, a sound, a feeling of something against your skin.
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  9. When you are ready, open your eyes, and write, beginning with that image or sensory detail.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Sievers February 18, 2013 at 9:11 am

Amber,
Love this! Thank you so much for the reminder of this technique. I’ve been struggling with a writing project and could not get at the heart of what I wanted to say. And then, there was your journaling technique on stream of consciousness.
Funny how these things turn up when you need them.
Hope you are well.
Linda

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Amber Lea Starfire February 18, 2013 at 9:30 am

Linda, I love synchronicity — and am happy that the post arrived at the right time for you. :-)

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patsy ann taylor February 18, 2013 at 10:20 am

This has been one of the hardest ways for me to freewrite. I thought I needed the tension/stress of time constraints to get my pen moving, but once used to the meditation before writing, the work seems to come more easily. My husband and I are in a group of writers who use this method, and find our writing full of surprises. Thank you for the pointers. Patsy

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Amber Lea Starfire February 18, 2013 at 10:24 am

Patsy, thanks for the comment. I’m not understanding — is it more or less difficult for you to write using stream of consciousness than the “regular” form of freewriting?

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Barbara Toboni February 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Thanks, Amber. This helps. As soon as I relax and think of my topic the images come to mind to reinforce. What doesn’t help is if I don’t know what I am going to write about. I have to have a general idea and then it’s like the mind mapping thing.

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Amber Lea Starfire February 25, 2013 at 9:29 am

Barbara, thanks for your comment. As with most things, each technique must be adapted or modified to fit our personal needs. It sounds like you’ve figured out how this works best for you.

I’m the same way when I’m working on a piece of writing (not journaling) … It helps to know where I’m going to start.

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A.K.Andrew February 25, 2013 at 6:18 am

I love this post – what a fabulous combination. I think free writing is the best way to exercise one’s writing muscle and to get in the zone. I’ve started lots of short stories like this, and although I’m now a novelist, if ever I need a starter, this is what I always do. But this is even better for getting in touch with ourselves. Thank you so much for the post.

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Amber Lea Starfire February 25, 2013 at 9:31 am

You’re welcome, A.K. :-)

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Dawn Herring March 8, 2013 at 11:48 am

Amber,
I appreciate the detail you present here for a meditative approach to stream of consciousness writing. The step by step is even relaxing just reading it! I also love the intuitive vibe this approach takes, going with the flow, picking up associations along the way. And being okay with whatever result you end up with.

I have chosen your post, Journaling Techniques: Writing on the Stream of Consciousness, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 3/8/13 for all things journaling on Twitter; a link will be posted on the social networks, on my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in my weekly Refresh Journal: http://tinyurl.com/abael32.

#JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST, for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week was Your Journaling: Changing Perceptions.

Thanks again for sharing this effective approach to journaling.

Be refreshed,
Dawn Herring
Your Refreshment Specialist
Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

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Jamel April 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

My emotions feel sooo buried I feel like I’m stuck to know what to begining to write about or how to start so that what I write I can learn from and release all the thoughts that are real Not fluff and that is Honest.

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Jamel April 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

O I should have said for my Journal how to write or unload truthful things I can learn from when I feel stuck with buried emotions

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Amber Lea Starfire April 25, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Jamel, try this Stream of Consciousness writing technique — be sure to first center and meditate on your breath, as it’s a critical piece. Then write about something simple: water, rocks, sky. Write by hand and write whatever pops into your mind, no matter how it seems. When you don’t judge yourself and allow free expression, eventually some of those bottled up emotions will begin to emerge safely.

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