You’re about to learn what it is, and how you can do it simply.
Image Credit: MSI via Twitter
Image if you could see someone’s brain through their work.
That’s what stream of consciousness work is. When you see work created using this style, you’re seeing the inner workings of someone’s brain before meditation goes in and tidies everything up to the point where you can’t relate or emulate their work.
Stream of consciousness work is beautiful because it’s natural.
I hadn’t heard of this type of work before until last week. On a Q&A call with a few writers, one person asked “How do I implement that stream of consciousness writing style you do?” I had no clue that’s how I write. Let’s dissect stream of consciousness work further so you can work differently.
A Passage of Thought Through Your Brain Not Blocked by Inhibitors
That’s the best way to describe stream of consciousness work. Ideas pour out of you. You don’t have any filters.
You’re not asking yourself these questions:
- Who will like my work?
- Is this work good?
- What will the critics say?
Stream of consciousness work simply says “I don’t give a f*ck,” quietly.
That’s how I feel. I no longer care about how my work will be judged — only that my work will be of use to a segment of people that come across it. Opinions are inhibitors. Overthinking can be an inhibitor.
Trying to predict results can be an inhibitor. When thought can flow effortlessly through your brain without being stopped, judged, analyzed and allowed to pass go or burned at the stake instantly, you will know you’re doing the magic of stream of consciousness work.
Flow States Enable Stream of Consciousness Work
Stream of consciousness work occurs at a fast pace. The only way to get speed is to get momentum. My process looks like this currently:
- Drink coffee.
- Procrastinate like a bum at the start.
- Write one sh*tty story I probably shouldn’t publish.
- Let the flow state kick in (amplified by movie soundtracks, caffeine, focus, aeroplane mode on my phone, quietness, and zero distractions).
- 2–3 stories in (according to my editor) … flash, bang, I’m on fire.
The feeling of stream of consciousness work is electrifying. You feel like it’s just you against the world. Your thoughts pour out of your mind. You organize them in the moment. You don’t edit your thoughts or your work. You don’t look for mistakes. You don’t question yourself.
You keep working as if you’re not going to live to see tomorrow. That’s how I found stream of consciousness work. A near-miss with cancer in 2015 made me re-evaluate my perception of time. My world went from “do it when you can … one day,” to “do it right now.”
Your mortality creates time constraints on your work. Time limitations enhance stream of consciousness work. I then add in a deadline at the end of my work session to annihilate later procrastination, keep me focused, enable urgency, and cause the thoughts to keep pouring out while I have the capacity to generate them.
Conciseness Is the God You Worship
I’m not religious. I’m spiritual as heck though. Conciseness is a god I can high-five because it’s based on simplification.
In a goldfish attention span society, people don’t have time for you to waffle.
Stream of consciousness work in whatever field you work in gets to the point. You edit your intro. Your brain thinks in glorious black dot-points. You think in terms of takeaways, lessons and conclusions. Not a single minute of a person’s time who gets to come into contact with your work is wasted.
Chaos Is Beauty
Stream of consciousness work is less organized. Marie Kondo doesn’t come in and tidy up your thoughts or organize them. What is, is what is.
My writing isn’t perfectly arranged. My thoughts are mostly in the same structure as they came out of my head. A touch of sprinkle dust, as opposed to a brutal transplant of thoughts from one spot to the other, is the way I publish. It’s not about been fancy. Messy is dirty. Dirty is cool. ‘Cool’ is stream of consciousness work that places people in your head where they can feel like they’re living for a while, and perhaps, escape their own heads.
When I see overly organized work, I get sleepy.
Clean is everywhere. Clean is what ads are.
The work that is ads is so clean you can’t spot the human in them. That’s why your brain automatically switches off from ads, leaving businesses spending money on overpriced boat anchors that appear on a tv station very few watch without taking their eyes off their phone.
If you want to see stream of consciousness work then check out Twitter threads. This is my obsession. Twitter is made up of mostly unfiltered thoughts. No one writes a tweet like they’re writing a book to stand the test of time. Grammar and spelling errors are the norm.
Each tweet is a thought. Seeing tweets connected by simple lines linking one thought to the next is like seeing the statue of David for the first time. The line connecting tweets is David’s willy. Joking.
Linkedin is made up of thoughts heavily edited for professionals.
Twitter is stream of consciousness thoughts edited for nobody.
Volume of Work Is Better than Once in a Lifetime Work
Writing a book can easily become a full-time procrastination project.
When you use stream of consciousness as your style, you release your work into the world more often and get feedback on what you are thinking. Feedback is data. Data helps you make better work decisions in the future. Data is experience you’ve captured, bottled with ones and zeroes, and validated with other brains that have their own streams of consciousness.
What’s cool is when your stream of consciousness starts intersecting with another person’s stream of consciousness. This happened to me the other day. I went on Twitter to mess around and a stream of consciousness moment hit me. I started typing tweets and publishing them like a mad man. I saw a tweet from Nicolas Cole. I left a reply under his tweet. He replied. I took his reply and started to interweave it into my stream of consciousness. In real-time, Cole was also publishing his own stream of consciousness. It’s as if our two streams of consciousness were playing ping pong with each other.
This used to happen to me when I studied music. We called it riffing. Riffing is where you play your instrument without any structure (think guitar solo). The music you create is your thoughts translated into musical notes. The musicians around you start adding their thoughts into your stream of consciousness. Then when you stop riffing and they start riffing, you do the same for them.
I got to be the engineer in the recording studio. This meant it was my job to capture the streams of consciousness from each person, converted into electric energy that played through a set of speakers. My job was to ensure that the stream of consciousness didn’t get interrupted. I can remember times where we’d sit in the studio for six hours and it would feel like sixty minutes.
Observing a person doing stream of consciousness work is glorious. It helps you to go home and do the same after your encounter.
Why work with hundreds of knives stabbing your thoughts to death? Your unfiltered thoughts are your best thoughts. Unfiltered thoughts direct you towards a version of work that can alter how you view your thinking.
Get yourself into a flow state. Allow yourself to work at a faster pace. Don’t worry about the outcome. Let your thoughts guide your actions. Don’t let the jerks inside your head sabotage your work that’s waiting to be discovered.
Let work flow out of you as opposed to trying to control it, and therefore, run the risk of ruining it.