Here’s a dirty, little secret: my essays are all really just stream-of-consciousness journal entries.
My love for it recently got reignited by Matthew Dicks’ fantastic book Storyworthy. He recommends a daily stream-of-consciousness exercise that he calls Crash & Burn. While stream-of-consciousness writing always sounds a bit pretentious, I really like the ring of Crash & Burn.
Anyway, my process is as simple as it gets: I sit down, I write, I write, I write, and only get up when I’m finished. I wrestle with an idea an just follow my thoughts as they take me up and down the page. There’s no planning, no notes, no draft, or editing. I’m just getting words out of my head onto the screen.
This is obviously therapeutic. But occasionally the result is also surprisingly good writing. Okay maybe not good writing in a way a professor of literature would approve. Powerful writing is a better term.
Right now, you can feel my energy, right? You can feel that I’m speaking directly to you. Every thought is moving straight from my mind into your head. Unfiltered. Raw.
And that’s precisely what makes it powerful.
Every time a text is edited, edges get smoothened out. But it’s precisely these edges that make a text interesting.
When you’re planning and editing, you’ll always be tempted to remove paragraphs that make you feel uneasy. “Maybe I shouldn’t say that.”, “This could be misunderstood”, “That’s a bit too harsh.”. So what’s left is bland and boring.
Also, there are no surprises. If you’re meticulously planning you texts, a smart reader will be able to anticipate where you’re going. But with Crash & Burn writing, even I have no idea what I’m going to say next.
I start typing and have no idea what the text will be about. That’s also how I started the text you’re reading right now.
I’m not censoring myself. I don’t care what some hypothetical reader might think or want. I write what I really think. This is my little corner of the internet and I do here whatever I want.
I’m doing it to get thoughts out of my system to make room for new ideas. So I don’t care about the outcome, if anyone will ever read or like it. My only focus is on the process itself.
But the best part of Crash & Burn writing is that it doesn’t feel like work. It’s fun.
So don’t let anyone convince you that writing is complicated, that you first need to learn some complex process, or that you need to put in a lot of effort to polish your text.
Just sit down and write down what you really think.
*Image credit: “Jackson Pollock”