Stream of consciousness is a technique used when a writer wants to illuminate the internal world of a character by showing their thoughts as they pass across the mirror of the mind.
Just as an exercise, write down - even for 10 to 15 seconds - your thoughts as they arise.
pale grey sky light blue clear in the distance they’re up what colour for the bathroom leaves moving should I wear the blue or the purple what should I give him faint breeze town or country blog edit poster nothing tired spacing out better look lively ouch traffic grey green lush forest
As you can see, my mind is more like a bubbling pot that splashes hot water all over the stove, and even with punctuation wouldn't have much coherence. So when a writer uses stream of consciousness they are using it with intent and every word is deliberate and serves a purpose relating to how they are portraying a particular character.
Virginia Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway and James Joyce in Ullysses are two of the most well known exponents who have used stream of consciousness successfully. The advantage is that there is an immediacy (okay, maybe not in my example) to the writing as the reader experiences exactly how a character reacts to circumstances and events. The disadvantage is that it can be difficult to write and to read.
There are a certain number of people who never finish Joyce’s book in particular because they find it hard to read. In a famous 1933 US court decision, Ulysses was labelled dirty, blasphemous, and unreadable. Others, including the playwright Samuel Beckett, and poets Ezra Pound and T. S. Elliot, declared it brilliant. This is a long book, and takes time to read – there are even guides and lectures – but I’d put it on a to-be-read list any day for aspiring writers.
I’ve had a break for about a week and I’m rediscovering the importance of routine. I have the greatest admiration for writers such as Mrs. Gaskell, a 19th century rector’s wife, who wrote many of her novels and short stories while sitting at the kitchen table with her children under her feet, as I find it’s taking time to re-establish my writing rhythm.
I remind myself endlessly of the importance of details – not the how many times has she had breakfast today kind of detail – but the 2/3 and even 4 word repeated phrases that ProWrite picks up. And I’m getting faster but it’s painstakingly labour intensive work. However, the task is not without pleasure and the reward is a tighter piece of writing, which is good.
My activity on Google+ has reduced and I didn't write a post for my blog last week. It felt like I was neglecting a child. Writing posts takes time out of the editing marathon but I do enjoy writing them and I did miss it! So, I’m working on getting back into the Googlesphere and reciprocating with the many supportive writers I’ve met there.
So thank you for visiting. Your reading this blog is important to me (yeah, I know I sound like one of those voices on the end of the phone) but I mean it!
single raindrops race
downwards to join with others –
burbling with laughter
For anyone wishing to investigate self-publishing, the following link gives a straightforward overview of the process.
For those who have not attempted Joyce’s Ulysses, this post is a good starting point. http://biblioklept.org/2010/06/16/how-to-read-james-joyces-ulysses-and-why-you-should-avoid-how-to-guides-like-this-one/
http://amzn.to/18SbSaG Gold Dragon Haiku - my first attempt at publishing poetry!
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
Interesting article Teagan. Sometimes it's difficult to juggle everything. I'm in the process of moving out of my house. I'm packing boxes now. I'm also editing my novel "Lilith" as you know. I have to tell you I'm finding it very difficult to keep up with Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and my blog. It's getting to be a bit much. I guess I have to prioritize. Good luck with it all.ReplyDelete
Thank you for your comments, Vashti. They're always appreciated. They say moving house is one of life's most stressful events, so to have that on top of everything else is a lot. I'm finding that there are times when life makes me step back a bit from social media but as long as I can write/edit that's the most important thing. Best of luck with the editing (and the move!).ReplyDelete
Great post, Teagan. I love writing stream of consciousness particularly to highlight the psychological effects the situation is having on the character, the crazier the better. To me it is writing without rules or boundaries, unfortuanately it has many detractors.ReplyDelete
I recieved a copy of Ulysses for christmas and it is sitting on my shelf making me feel a little guilty. I still haven't read it but it is quite high up on my to read list.
Hi Ben. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I can see the attraction of stream of consciousness and at its best it can have the beauty of prose-poetry, but it also has an intensity which can be demanding on a reader - that's when it's comprehensible - the other main disadvantage! As for reading Ulysses, well it's always good to have something to look forward to...ReplyDelete
I just stumbled upon your blog and this is really inspiring. I love how you structure you blog posts to give a glimpse of your writing process every time you post here. I'm looking forward to be reading more of it!ReplyDelete
Wow, thank you Marit. This is just the kind of encouraging comment I imagine every blogger would love to hear, and I'm glad you enjoyed reading the post.ReplyDelete