Writing With No Foundations

socs-badge-2017-18-e1503097084778There 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.

23 thoughts on “Writing With No Foundations

  1. Runic pencil scribbles on an A6 piece of scrap paper used as a bookmark in whatever I’m reading, or illegible notes scribbled in the dark when I’m awake in the middle of the night… that’s as near as I’ve ever got to stream of consciousness…

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  2. Now I have to fess up to being a complete barbarian… but yes, I always have scribbled notes to myself in the margins and in the back end pages. Favourite quotes, too. Then I feel the book really is mine, part of me.

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    • Although it’s kind of fascinating to get a second hand book that someone else has done the same in, don’t you think? I’ve got an ancient copy of Palgrave’s Treasury of Poetry with the most beautiful copperplate handwritten notes meticulously written on every page. Feels like I’ve inherited something very personal, rather than just bought a second hand book.


      • Well, your Palgrave sounds like a sort of heirloom. I’ve never bought a second hand book like that. I do quite like books that have been nicely signed, or have bookplates in them, but I’m afraid I don’t appreciate the kind of scribble that I cover some of my books with. Hypocrite and barbarian… I think I’ll go and hide for a while.

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  3. Welcome to SoCS! I wanted to let you know that there are some of us that do break Linda’s 500-word rule (on occasion or always) and fortunately there doesn’t seem to be any penalties for being long-winded. SoCS might be a bit scary, but it’s also a lot of fun. 🙂

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  4. I mainly write #SoCS style. The art of putting pen to paper slows me down. The thoughts, ideas, whatever you call them come much more quickly than I can write long hand or even type (probably since I never learned to type properly). Even writing formal papers for school the opening, body, closing … ugh just thinking about it. Boo structure. 🙂

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    • Hi, thanks for commenting! It is much slower with pen and paper, that’s for sure. It’s often struck me that when you type (assuming you’re using both hands) you’re using your brain in a different way as well. Definitely feels like a different experience.

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