The Astonishing Delight of Stream-of-Consciousness Writing

When memoir writers get started, they often write everything down, stream-of-consciousness style, just to get all the ideas on paper. It’s a good idea, but a lot of writers get insecure about it because they don’t realize this a type of pre-writing and only the first step in a long process.

This random mental download is not your finished draft or anything close to it. That’s a scary thought, or so I hear from my clients. Honestly, I’ve been a writer for so long now that I forget how scary writing can be for some people, at first.

Nowadays, I look at a blank page and I’m Clint Eastwood. Make my day, blank page! But luckily I have clients to remind me how frightening memoir writing can be, at first. Writing your thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness style can help with that.

It’s Okay to be Messy When Writing a Stream of Consciousness

My clients fill pages upon pages with rambling, intersecting, unfinished thoughts and preliminary ideas for jokes and stories and social or political commentary, then ask me, “Am I on the right track?” The answer is yes, because you’re doing the first step in a hundred-step process. (Here’s a blog on the beauty of being disorganized)

The only way you can go off track, really, is to worry about the fact that step one doesn’t look like step fifty. That rambling incoherent outpouring of emotion is important, but it’s not your first draft. It’s your background material.

There are still several steps to go between writing your initial stream-of-consciousness background material and writing a first draft of a story, memoir, or novel. This holds true for ghostwriters as well as memoirists who write their own books.

Remember: Writing a Book is a Process

So If you’re a writer, one of the first things you need is the will to work and a genuine love of writing. You may not love writing, actually, but if you love the results enough to get the work done, that’s good enough.

The next thing you need is a good memoir ghostwriter, editor, or book coach who can guide you through the process of learning how to show events instead of tell them, how to describe people and places with just the right amount of detail, and how to identify the parts of your work that slow down or speed up the story. You also need the willlingness to start with plain, unpolished, stream-of-consciousness writing, which shows no special ability or aptitude, and work your way up to success.

Beginner’s Mind

A lot of my clients have already succeeded in their fields to great acclaim and the very last thing they want to do is ever feel like a beginner again at anything. It’s horrible! That’s why they hire me to write a memoir for them. Great. I’m happy to get the work, but for those of you who aspire to write your own memoir, you’ll need the willingness to start with disorganized, messy, unpolished, stream-of-consciousness writing.

It’s a wonderful feeling, really: giving yourself permission to fail. Not every adult can handle this “beginners mind” as the zen people say, but for those who can, welcome to being a writer.

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