Tapping Your Superconscious: Da Vinci’s Streamwriting technique

by Brad Isaac on May 30, 2006

To spite all the recent talk about Da Vinci’s Code and his possible involvement with the Holy Grail, few would argue Leonardo Da Vinci’s qualities of genius. To those ends, what did he take part in that might have added to his genius? Was he born a genius? Or were there things he did that tapped into a part of his brain that remains hidden from most people?

Let’s suppose for a moment that he wasn’t born genius and whatever tools he used we can use to tap into the hidden genius too. What would it mean to you and your life if you could use the same tools Leonardo used in his life? What if you could apply those tactics to open the same pathway to the superconscious he did? Would you want to see your life from that perspective? Would you want to apply this expansiveness of thought?

It turns out much of what he did to harness the power of his superconscious is available to all of us. And although he applied many different methods, the one I’ll detail today is what I like to call Streamwriting.

Streamwriting is simply writing nonstop what is in your mind, unedited until your conscious mind gets out of the way and allows your superconscious to do the talking. Da Vinci used this method with his journals to solve specific problems and to seek answers that were otherwise hidden from his conscious experience.

Streamwriting sounds simple and it is. But the challenge is to stay with it until you break through and get the answers you seek. Here are the simple steps to get started streamwriting:

Take out your journal, notebook or a legal pad and write a subject or problem you want to solve at the top of a page. Word your problem using specific language and make the wanted outcome sound fun, exciting or pleasant. For instance, a question like “How can I earn an extra $1000 this month and enjoy the process?” would be better than “Make a $1000.”

Then, beneath your question start writing everything that pops into your head. Write related and unrelated thoughts that come to your mind. Keep your pen on paper and do not stop writing to think or get back on track. Your brain knows the problem, so you don’t need to consciously think about it. You need your conscious out of the way.

When you run out of ideas, keep writing anyway. Write “I am stuck” or “I can’t think of anything to write.” Don’t worry your conscious will likely get bored and let the ideas flow. Or you will change the subject to your goal or another side road that leads to the breakthrough. Just relax and keep writing.

I will say this method does take patience. You may need to do some streamwriting over the period of a week or more before your ideas blow you away. Where others may see results the first day. Overall, though, the more you practice, the quicker and better ideas you will get.

This post is part of the Achieve-IT! Series Tapping Your Superconscious where you can learn unique ways to gain solutions to problems, inspirations and life changing ideas.

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{ 18 comments }

Improve Your Mind May 31, 2006 at 3:51 am

Thanks for the tip. How long takes one streamwriting session?

Sean Meade May 31, 2006 at 9:42 am

this reminds me of what happens for me a lot when doing the Morning Pages recommended in Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’. i find it extremely helpful for thinking myself clear.

Chris Brogan... May 31, 2006 at 12:34 pm

Man, you’re one of three people I wish I were when I fantasize about invading someone else’s life. This is a great find, and thanks for your post. I think you should start making tee shirts with just your head on them. Well, an image of your head. The former would be scary.

Brad Isaac May 31, 2006 at 8:36 pm

IYM: I’d start with at least a 1/2 hour per session.

“Man, you’re one of three people I wish I were when I fantasize about invading someone else’s life.”

Chris, if you keep making comments like that my head will get too big to fit on a tee shirt. ;)

Thanks for the comment, made my day!

Anne May 31, 2006 at 9:34 pm

Nice article! I have done this several times in the past and the results are pretty amazing! I’ve always believed that we know more than what we know we know and this technique will prove it!

Scott Johnson June 1, 2006 at 6:27 pm

This seems like a good idea. Do you have any examples of your own streams that you could scan and post?

Dan June 2, 2006 at 1:22 am

Does it work if you type? Or is handwriting better and if so, why?

Huh June 2, 2006 at 1:52 am

Streamwriting..? Don’t they call this “brainstorming”?

Brad Isaac June 2, 2006 at 12:08 pm

Anne..I think you’re right ;)

Scott..I don’t have a scanner, but I don’t know if that would be helpful anyway. Most of my streamwriting is jibberish until I make a connection..then I’m usually off working on the new idea.

Dan.. In a way it does work if you type. I’ve done it before by just turning off my monitor and typing away. Some would argue handwriting is better because it’s a much more physical activity. It is less noise, more permanent to name a few…

Huh.. You can call it brainstorming if you like. But it wouldn’t be helpful for me to just say “go forth and brainstorm”. People like to learn new ways of doing it. Different methods work better at different times for different people.

Roger October 9, 2006 at 5:01 pm

OK! Love your suggestion about streamwriting. How about an addition to this method that will guarantee that you will NEVER have writers block!
First, whatever it is you want/need to write about, turn that into a question you have to answer instead of a statement the requires a response.
Second, and this is the magic part, pick three words – any three words that come into your head that might be relevent (or even irrelevent).
Third, start writing with one of those three words as the first word of the first sentence. Then make sure you use the other two words in the remainder of your first paragraph.
This may sound simple, may sound odd, but many professional writers use this trick to guarantee that they never experience writer’s block when they must produce. The first rule of writing is: Don’t get it right, get it written!

Mosage October 26, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Thanks for the tip. I know questions are powerful, and clearing the mind is powerful, and putting them together is obviously even more powerful. May I ask where you got this information about Da Vinci?

Brad Isaac October 29, 2006 at 2:44 pm

Roger, I love your idea. I’m going to give it a try.

Mosage, that information about Da Vinci is pretty commonly written about. Most recently, I remember reading about it in a book How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci.

NickySS December 24, 2006 at 10:14 pm

Hi!
Nice info, big thx.

Dan Lind January 5, 2007 at 5:19 pm

This is my first visit to your site. All very intresting and motivating!

Brian Tracy has a connectivity system similar to Da Vinci’s He calls it “mental iron pumping” and suggests that you write a problem at the top of the page and then list 29 ways you can address or solve the problem. Teh first 10 are easy … then it becomes increasingly difficult. Then you pick the best of the list…write it at the top of page 2 and write 29 ways this could be done etc.

Regards,

Dan Lind
AIDEA Inc.

Vygantas January 17, 2009 at 11:01 am

Brainstorming is different than streamwriting. One is in your mind and another is on your paper :-)

Will try writing stuff

Vygantass last blog post..Resize Text Areas in Opera

Ron November 4, 2009 at 2:02 am

It might be fascinating to see PDFs of the pages people produced in using this technique, especially when it resulted in hitting upon a good idea or a much needed solution. Tracing the threads through the jottings to see the possible path the brain used to conjure or reveal the solution could be very interesting. I’m sure a brain expert could offer insights after examining the pages even very superficially.
If anyone does this, would they consider uploading the scans?

Alexandre Guertin January 13, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Hi! Great advice and I’m going to try it out. Just wondering if you had to physically write down as I had surgery to my wrist and it gets tired pretty quickly. Could I just write on my computer instead?

Brad Isaac January 13, 2010 at 11:17 pm

No. Typing is fine. Personally, I like to turn off the monitor when I do this. It prevents editing and censoring the thoughts.

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