Stream of Consciousness: 1. A literary technique that presents the thoughts and feelings of a character as they occur. 2. Psychology The conscious experience of an individual regarded as a continuous, flowing series of images and ideas running through the mind. —The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Faulkner uses a literary technique called "stream of consciousness" to explore and expose the unspoken thoughts of his characters. For example, Darl Bundren in As I Lay Dying thinks: "I am I and you are you and I know it and you dont know it and you could do so much for me if you just would and if you just would then I could tell you and then nobody would have to know it except you and me and Darl" (p. 51). Or consider The Sound and the Fury when Quentin Compson remembers: "A face reproachful tearful an odor of camphor and of tears a voice weeping steadily and softly beyond the twilit door the twilight-colored smell of honeysuckle" (p.95).

We think you can write just like Faulkner! Follow this step-by-step exercise and see where your stream of consciousness takes you! There's no going back, no erasing, no crossing-out—just keep writing and go with the flow!

What You'll Need:
  • 20 minutes without interruptions
  • A timer—avoid using a clock since this can be a distraction
  1. Set your timer for 10 minutes and clear your head. Take a short walk, contemplate the view outside your window, or browse our Breathing Space Gallery
  2. When your time is up, find a peaceful place. Relax, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Reflect on what you saw during your walk or in the Breathing Space Gallery, but don't plan what you're going to write!
  3. Once you feel ready, set your timer for 10 minutes again. Begin writing as soon as you start your timer, and write continuously until your time is up. Don't worry about writing in complete sentences. Don't worry about spelling, grammar or even making sense. Jot down any and all words, images and ideas that come to mind.
  4. Once your time is up, take a moment to review your writing. If your thoughts seem to flow together in random ways, congratulations—you've found your stream! Circle the words or phrases that stand out as the most interesting and engaging. You may be surprised by what you find!


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