Creative Problem-Solving: Following Your Stream of Consciousness
Having trouble finding a solution to a nagging problem? Try a well-known journaling technique called stream of consciousness--you may be surprised at the creative messages you receive from your inner self.
Take the case of Shana, an online journaler who had a problematic relationship with a co-worker. When Shana allowed herself the "scary" experience of stream of consciousness journaling, she quickly realized her intensely emotional reaction to the co-worker was, in fact, related to a similar situation with an ex-spouse. In both situations Shana felt like a doormat--but until her journaling, she didn't realize the two were connected.
Stream of consciousness is a style of writing that is uninterrupted, unedited, and unstructured. Typically, a journaler approaches the blank page without intention--then simply waits for something to come. However, when used as a problem-solving technique, approach your journaling with a specific intention, knowing that whatever comes out of your subconscious will contain clues to a solution.
Once you begin writing, don't try to make sense of it-just keep writing, ignoring any questions or comments coming from your mind. Remember, this isn't a mental or literary exercise, but rather an opportunity to give voice to the inner you. No matter how silly the words seem, just keeping writing. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. Set a 10 minute timer and write until the 10 minutes are up. If your mind goes blank, just write something like, my mind is blank, my mind is blank, and keep writing until something else comes into your consciousness.
Wonder what another journaler's stream of consciousness writing looks like? This is a sample from a writer dealing with guilt over infidelity in a relationship:
broccoli, sting beans, rage, rivers, rockets, take me to the end of the world and drop me off the edge, oh columbus of mine with blueberries in your hair and apples in your eyes. cheeks of rosy red i am iam iamiamiam. skyrockets, fuses, short fuses burning til they can't be stopped, racing madly through space trying to catch up with yourself. get off the damned train. ribbons wrapped throughout my white matter, red, blue, green and yellow, trailing sadness and madness and getevenness. hearts a breakin, heads a breaking, hearts open and arrows leaking bloody mass you are. orange is the color of my true love's courage, black is the color of my loyalty and fidelity. pull the arrows out without leaving a scar, can you? bears watch over us as we sail through dragon-filled deserts, pyramids of shimmering green and gold and malachite, crystal balls guard the entry.
Although this may sound like gibberish to you, to the journaler, it contained several clues about the depth of her guilt, as well as insight into what brought about the infidelity. Like dreams, the symbols in a stream of consciousness journal session, are often best interpreted by the dreamer himself.
If you've never done stream of consciousness journaling, don't be afraid to experiment with different approaches. For example, pick a topic--any topic--and writing everything you can think about it. Like fishing, or bicycles, or cats, or fans, or canyons. Frequently, when writing about a seemingly "random" topic, insight -- those ah-ha moments-will appear that actually solve a problem you weren't even thinking about.
Copyright 2004 Patti Prague
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About The Author
Patti Prague is content manager at JournalGenie.com, the only online site that analyzes your writing and then gives you instant feedback. Discover self-defeating patterns, find better ways to communicate in relationships. Contact her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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