This week, The Daily Post told me to write something I normally do not write. (Why are they called The Daily Post when they only have weekly writing challenges?) Anyway, the challenge is that if you normally write non-fiction, try fiction. If you write fiction, try poetry, photos become writing, writing becomes photos. Well, I do all those things with varying regularity (except for poetry–I think we can all be glad of that). I am a fish of many hats. So, what is one to do? Instead, of changing what I write, I’ll change the way I write. One of the things they of the Daily (Weekly) Post suggested was stream-of-consciousness. Stream-of-consciousness is not something my fingers and brain do ever. I am not, nor ever have been, fond of the results.
In a way, all writing is stream-of-(… I’m tired of typing that out, so from now on it will be SOC). It all comes out of the subconscious. Well, at least that’s how it works with me. I’ll be taking a shower when all of a sudden a sentence comes knocking. I’ll ignore it, but along comes another. I try to ignore that one, too, but then the first one comes back and attaches itself to the second sentence. Invariably, this is when I think, “No, no, no, sentence one, it would be better if you took your second half and attached it to sentence two’s front half and vice versa.” And that’s when they’ve got me. They know that by presenting themselves with a tiny little flaw, that my consciousness will have no choice but to correct it. Soaking wet, with a head full of shampoo, I now have to carry these two sentences that I’ve inadvertently picked up. By the time I get out of the shower, the two sentences have turned into ten or twenty. I have to put them somewhere so I go write them down.
Normally, my fingers spit out the words my brain tells it to. Then the brain goes back and revises everything, multiple times, until the fingers and the brain, are in concord. We hit publish and then we begin the revising process all over again because there are always things that can be phrased better or little errors we didn’t catch the first time. Sometimes, the brain and fingers revise things that have been posted for days or even weeks. They are never satisfied. I do not do SOC. It’s impossible for me to not revise. But that’s the challenge, isn’t it? To write something and not revise it. That’s what SOC is.
One of the main reasons I don’t do SOC is that my itinerant brain takes it upon itself and revises without my direction. I have problems with my memory. I can’t remember what the previous paragraph says half the time. So, when I go back and read it, I inevitably find things that need changing. Sometimes, I get so distracted by revision, that I stop writing altogether until I’m satisfied. It’s natural for me. It almost seems that I revise more than I write. That is not the point of this exercise. The point here is to not revise and I can tell you, I am already having a hard time of it. I’ve caught myself a couple of times revising and had to force myself back to writing without changing anything. This is a lot harder than it seems. I’m sure I’m babbling at this point.
I start with a sentence, turn it into ten, write, revise, write some more, revise. That’s my writing process. It is an interesting thing to think about. Where does it come from? Writing, art, dance, all forms of creativity, seem to come from someplace deep within us. They’re not conscious. If they were, it would seem forced. Sure, we may have an idea of what we want as a final product, we may have a theme, but the individual dance steps, brushstrokes and words that get us there all stem from the subconscious.
I’m not sure if this is how the process works for other writers, but that’s how it is with me. It all starts with one sentence until the words are swarming around in my brain. I have no choice but to write them down to get them to go away. Typically, I don’t even have a topic first. A sentence will come with a topic attached. Even when I do have something I want to talk about, the process is generally the same. To me, “I want to write about writing” isn’t much different from “I have no idea where this is going, but I have to write this sentence down.” They both end up as a mini-SOC before I revise.
I’ve tried writing from an outline, and while it definitely helps at first, I usually end up veering off of my chosen path and ending up places I never thought about when I wrote the outline. Most of the time, with the proper fiction I write, I don’t bother using them anymore. It’s nice to have in case you get stuck, but I don’t find outlines to be all that necessary or helpful for the most part. I never use them at all for blog posts.
I’m always fascinated by other people’s creative processes, especially since I seem to have so little grasp on my own. How does the creative process work for you? Do you start with a whole framework and build the meat on top of the bones? Or do you start with a just a simple idea for a character, phrase or sentence, a sketch and build on it?
So that’s it, my painful streamlet-of-consciousness. I’m going to go through this post for spelling errors. I’m not going to change anything else. I will cringe and hit the publish button.