There are regular prompt posts that pop up on the WordPress reader which I keep seeing, and think to myself, one day I really should do something about that. Like Stream of Consciousness Saturday. It’s a tricky idea, starting with a blank screen and no idea, no plan what to write about. But isn’t that what a writer’s supposed to be able to do, handle these challenges and come up with something creative?
Is this creative? I’m just bumbling, fumbling for the right words. Out of my depth, my spidery little letters frantically scurrying across this vast empty screen to the safety of the bottom of the page and the ‘submit’ button. My fingers are working of their own accord, but my mind’s standing back, almost as if to say ‘you guys get on with it, I’m not getting involved’. Because here’s the thing, this isn’t how writing is supposed to work.
What’s supposed to happen, for any piece of writing – whether it’s a book review or a political rant or a short story on my blog, or one of the longer pieces of fiction I’m working on away from WordPress – is this:
I have an idea.
I do some googling to check my facts
I make some handwritten notes in a notebook. And this jotting of notes is the crucial thing. It’s a mixture of phrases I might use, facts I might throw in, and a stream of consciousness – yep, another one! – about where it’s going. Kind of like this: “So if character A leaves the Bridge, character B will know that A’s up to no good, and will demand answers, so maybe I need to keep A on the Bridge, and have him send an encrypted message instead? Yeah, that’ll work”
Then, when all this is done, and only then, will I open up the laptop and start to type. I can touch type, so this bit of the process is faster than actually writing by hand (and certainly neater) and now that I’ve got my brain and my hands connected properly, the words can actually come.
Because it’s this process of brainstorming, and my slightly bonkers way of talking to myself with a pen, that makes the writing happen. I’ve often felt like my pen is a detachable part of my brain. In other words, when the pen is in my hand, then my brain starts to work, I can think properly, the circuit is complete and the current can flow.
So that’s why this is so scary. Because the circuit isn’t properly connected, my brain isn’t fully involved, and it really does feel like my fingers are in charge. Of course, they aren’t, but I suppose what I mean is that I’m writing completely spontaneously, no planning, no drafting, just creating a structure on the surface on the page without my usual careful digging of foundations. Writing with no foundations. It feels like the words might float away, ephemeral, with nothing anchoring them to anything deeper. But maybe it could be a useful warm-up exercise, a new part of my writing routine? Because look, I’ve already passed the 500-word mark, in less than 20 minutes. I can’t claim I’ve done it completely spontaneously – I did switch a paragraph or two round back there – but it’s still pretty quick by my standards, so maybe I should keep doing it.
This was my first attempt at a Stream of Consciousness Saturday post – the prompt was ‘in other words’ and I managed to get that in as well.