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Inspiring Creativity

The Marcel Proust Approach to Getting Creatively Unstuck

Tapping into the Stream of Consciousness

By Rick Benzel | Updated September 1, 2018

The great French writer Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922) is known for a style of writing called stream of consciousness, in which he poured his feelings out onto the page like water over a dam. Proust's novels are long extensions of his thoughts and memories, with thousands of words devoted to the smallest of incidents. For example, in his famous novel Remembrance of Things Past, Proust devoted 30 pages to simply describing rolling over in bed at night.

For creators, the value of the Marcel Proust approach to stream of consciousness lies in the fact that when you are stuck, you need to release your mind from rules and formulae so you can open yourself up to fresh ideas. If you are at an impasse when writing your novel, stop thinking about writing your novel per se, and begin writing just about anything. If you are painting and don't know what color to use next, stop thinking about painting the piece in question and head for a new canvas where you release all preconceptions into a stream of consciousness of colors and shapes. If you are choreographing a dance, go off into a studio and simply dance your head off using whatever movements occur to you in the moment.

Stream of consciousness allows you to reconnect with your innermost feelings and thoughts, a veritable "brain dump" that lets your creativity hang out without regard to correctness, appropriateness, or brilliance. You simply lay all your thoughts bare — and in doing so, you let yourself tap into authentic feelings and ideas that arise from deep inside you. By relaxing yourself into stream of consciousness, your mind easily and quickly floats from one idea to another, surging in feelings and memories that often contain the seeds of the solution to your stuckness.

The Marcel Proust approach is similar to what you may already do in your journaling or in the "morning pages" associated with the book, The Artist's Way. All three methods are aimed at the same phenomenon: releasing your mind from your inner critic that halts your creative work — that little voice that claims a certain passage you are writing is "stupid" or that your painting is "ugly." As Proust taught us, it's very creative to simply let your mind spill out, and even your ramblings can turn into a world-renowned piece of literature.

Next: The Pottery Approach

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