What is Automatic Writing?
I define automatic writing as the ability of every human being to produce texts of different genres, including articles, without the interference of the conscious mind. It is inherent in every human being, but not everyone is able to use this aptitude in its fullness.
Many people disparage surrealist writing by comparing it to Dadaism or improvisation, disorder, and rejection of rationalization and balance. However, I can say that this does not correspond to reality.
In fact, automatic writing is just a literary method advocated, mainly, by the surrealist movement.
The hand that writes automatically produces the text, on paper either with a pen or on the keyboard of your computer. No matter the medium for the production of a surreal text. The truth is that words, phrases, whole texts are written with incredible speed.
In the trance state or altered state of consciousness, the author knows what is going on around him, but does not know what he is writing. When he finishes writing, if someone asks him what he wrote, he does not know how to respond.
Bretton answers what is surrealism with these words:
“SURREALISM, s.m. Pure psychic automatism through which it proposes to verbally express, in writing, or by any other means, the workings of thought. Dictation of thought, suspended any control exercised by reason, unrelated to any aesthetic or moral concern. ”
History of Automatic Writing / Surrealism
André Breton has begun to be interested in surrealism already since the year 1916, when it visited a friend in a hospital in Paris. In picking up a manual of psychiatry, he discovered Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. From then on, he began to seek answers about the unconscious thought of the mentally ill, the annotations of delusions and the interpretations of dreams.
In his Manifesto of Surrealism, André Breton speaks of a phrase that insisted in his mind, something like: “There is a man cut in two by the window”.
According to him, there was no doubt that it was the simple alignment in space of a man leaning out the window. In addition, this gave rise to an uninterrupted succession of phrases that gave him the impression of such gratitude “that the empire seemed to me to be illusory all that I had hitherto maintained over myself.” In addition, his account continues:
“The next day I woke up early. It was still dark. My eyes were open long ago, when I heard the clock of the lower apartment hit five hours. I wanted to sleep again, but I could not, I was wide-awake and a thousand things were being shuffled in my head. Suddenly came some good bits, suitable for use in an outline, in a leaflet; suddenly, by chance, I find very beautiful phrases, phrases like I will never write. I repeated them, slowly; word for word, they were excellent. In addition, there were more. I got up, took pencils and paper on the table behind my bed. It is as if I had broken a vein, one word followed another, put it in its place, the replicas appeared, in my brain, I enjoyed deeply. The thoughts came to me so quickly they flowed so abundantly that I lost many delicate details, because my pencil could not walk so fast, and though I was hurrying, the hand always moving, I wasted not a minute. The phrases kept flowing in me; I was pregnant with my subject. “
He became the father of surrealism along with Tristan Tzara in the year 1919, at the time of the launch of Littérature magazine.
The magazine published texts produced with automatic writing by Breton and Soupault. The authors wrote their surrealist texts, in the spring of 1919, in a state caused by psychic automatism.
The surrealist movement has its history marked by agitation linked to political movements. In 1925, for example, the surrealists took a stand in favor of Morocco that was fighting with France.
Among the historical records of works produced with automatic writing are “The magnetic fields” (1921), by André Breton and Philippe Soupault. The roots of Breton surrealism are to be found in the poetry and prose of Rimbaud and Lautréamont.
Moreover, in the most remote poetry of William Blake. These are leading artists of surrealism in foreign literature.
Automatic writing began to be used in Brazil in the 1920s, through Prudente de Morais Neto and Sérgio Buarque de Holanda. They were the first experimenters of automatic writing in the Portuguese language.
Automatic Writing and Psychology
Automatic writing is used as an instrument of Freudian psychology in activities connected with the studies of “self-knowledge,” for gaining insight into the psychograph’s mind.
Carlos Rodrigues mentions in the blog Erudito that to use this type of writing in therapy, aiming to release repressed memories is not valid. “When unconscious ideas are expressed in automatic writing, skeptics point out that it is unlikely that they are deeper than the writer’s conscious thoughts. Skeptics argue that there is no evidence that the “true self” is in the unconscious more than in normal consciousness. ”
Claudio Willer, in his long article on Poetic Creation, cites that in the 1933 essay Le message automatique, Breton shifted the focus of the discussion of automatic writing. He failed to cite Freud and referred to Myers, a nineteenth-century psychologist with an experimental orientation, a forerunner of both parapsychology and the psychology of perception. Myers researched eidetic images, visual post-effects (for example, when we stare into a light source, and it remains as we close our eyes):
“Breton concludes this essay with a bold statement:
” All ongoing experimentation would be of a nature to show that perception and representation-which to the ordinary adult seem to oppose so radically-should be taken only as products of Dissociation of a unique, original faculty, from which the eidetic image gives account and from which traces are found between primitives and children. By this reasoning, visions and hallucinations are equivalent to automatism, and vice versa. They gain the status of real, unimpaired perceptions. For surrealism, the hallucinated visionary does indeed see; or, in verbal automatism, indeed hears. “
Psychography or Surrealism Breton?
Automatic writing is the same as psychograph. Kardecist spiritists argue that automatic writing, that is, writing without the interference of the conscious, is related to psychography. For them, the automatic writer is a medium who is supposed to receive spiritist messages. From this point of view, the expression “automatic writing” Is in disuse by the kardecistas.
Spiritists consider what is automatically produced as a “message” conveyed by someone from the beyond.
In the Book of Mediums, available free of charge on the Internet, Chapter 13, item 157, which speaks of indirect psychology: baskets and clipboards and direct or manual psychography, Alan Kardec writes:
We may designate writing thus obtained as indirect psychography, in contradistinction to direct or manual psychography, obtained by the hand of the medium himself. In the last-named operation, the communicating spirit acts directly upon the medium; the medium, under this influence, holds the pencil, as though about to write, when his hand will be made to write, and often without his knowing what he is writing.
In all cases of spirit-writing, it is not that the planchette or the pencil becomes intelligent; for they are merely the instruments of an intelligence. Whatever the instrument employed, it is only a pencil-holder; an intermediary between the hand and the pencil. Suppress the intermediary, put the pencil into the medium’s hand, and you will have the same result, but much more simply obtained, since the medium will now write as he does in his normal state; thus, every one who writes with a planchette, or other instrument, can obtain direct writing. Of all means of communication, writing with the hand, sometimes designated as involuntary writing, is the simplest, easiest, and most convenient, because it requires no preparation, and is as available as common writing. We shall return to this subject when we treat of mediums.
Many disagree with the spiritists and attribute this fact to psychography to Breton surrealism.
Dom Estêvão Bettencourt discards the interference of a spirit, in the case of surrealist writing. In his article, The Automatic Writing or Psychology writes that in the field of psychography, there are people so vibratable and suggestible that they just sit at a table and pick up a pencil; put their hand on a sheet of paper and to stop their thinking on a certain subject, so that they can write about it. Such people do not have to think of a phrase at all. It is enough for them to conceive the idea of writing something…; It is enough merely to take a passive attitude so that the hand begins to write. Such people also do not need to go into trance or hypnotic sleep. These people, in almost every situation, write without knowing what they are writing, even though they are completely lucid.
According to information from Wikipedia, the physician Charles Arthur Mercier in the British Medical Journal (1894) criticized the spiritualist interpretation of automatic writing concluding “there is no need nor room for the agency of spirits, and the invocation of such agency is the sign of a mind not merely unscientific, but uninformed.” According to skeptical investigator Joe Nickell “automatic writing is produced while one is in a dissociated state. It is a form of motor automatism, or unconscious muscular activity.”
Automatic writing behavior was discovered in three patients with right hemispheric damage.
I write automatically, but I do not believe in mediumship. There are, however, those who believe. In fact, psychic automatism has been just one of the many types of writing.
Lúcia Grassi dos Santos, in The Surrealist Experience of Language: Breton and Psychoanalysis, cites a short excerpt from Nadeau’s “Histoire du Surréalisme,” published in 1958: “Surrealism is conceived by its founders not as a new artistic school, but as a means of knowledge, particularly of continents that until then had not been systematically explored: the unconscious, the wonderful, the dream, the madness, the hallucinatory states, In short, the reverse of what is presented as a logical scenario.”(NADEAU, 1958: 46)
Ferreira Goulart and his experience with psychic automatism
The famous Brazilian poet Ferreira Goulart, a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, says in his work “Poetic Autobiography and Other Texts” that he was very interested in surrealism and that he considered André Breton’s ideas very innovative and stimulating of artistic creation.
Ferreira Gullar read with interest the manifestoes of Breton. He read the poems André Breton wrote. In addition, he read other poets of the group, even without being interested in making surreal poetry.
Even so, he says that some ideas influenced his way of conceiving poetic creation. He recognizes that the valuation of unconscious or irrational factors came from the surrealists, although he believed that psychic automatism was an inconsequential proposal because it was impractical:
In fact, without intending to invent any kind of automatic writing, I invented a procedure that, if it does not use the automatism, manages to produce a text out of all rational control. I did this to conclude the book Crime in Flora, or Order and Progress (1986), sometime after the implosion of language at the end of The Body Fight (1954), which left me unable to write. It took me months to draw up this arbitrary text and did not know how to complete it. It was then that I thought of this: I began to write an absurd story with red paint, leaving enough space between the lines for another text. After this first story, I began to write another, in green ink, between the lines of the previous one, and then I typed everything together, as if it was a single text. This, of course, resulted in an incongruous text, since the sentences of one line joined the line of the next line, which belonged to the other narrative.
Brainstorming and Automatic Writing
Brainstorming “brain storm” is a technique used to explore the creative potentiality of a group or an individual in order to gather a diversity of thoughts and experiences and find innovative solutions.
Every thought or idea that comes to mind should be noted, without making any preliminary judgment, according to the most important rule of brainstorming: criticism is rejected.
The brazilian writer Sara Farinha cities in her blog that the first technique she uses before writing her texts is the mental storm. With this method, it creates a list of ideas about a particular topic. “Brainstorming works through the free association of ideas, dispensing critical thinking and self-editing, allowing us focus on quantity and ultimately on the quality (only possible because we think exhaustively about a theme).”
The absence of critical thinking is present in both brainstorming and automatic writing. The difference is that one is focused on the production of topics or ideas and the other for the production of whole texts.
Automatic Writing Techniques
Some people have a vibrating temperament and with little training, they are able to express themselves automatically through writing. These people can transfer to paper what comes from the bottom of the unconscious mind.
Psychological automatism can arise not only through concentration, but also through suggestion. Suggestions from outside can motivate new behavior. The same can be said of self-suggestion.
How do you spell it automatically? The first step is to have paper and pen. In possession of the writing material, relax your body and mind. Then think that you will write without the interference of the conscious mind. Do not worry about how to write because everything will come automatically.
If you are deeply relaxed, you may feel a slight tingling in the hand or arm or top of the head. Your hand may also become too heavy or too light.
Write down everything that comes without caring whether it is important or not, whether it is coherent or inconsistent. The key is to turn off your critical sense and let the subconscious or unconscious mind command everything.
Even if the result of the first time was unsatisfactory, do not be discouraged. Persistence is the secret of victory.
Before ending the practice, say that next time you will enter more quickly and more deeply into the state of relaxation. Tell yourself that you will not think how to write, because it will write automatically. Say that next time you will be better than on any previous occasion.
Stay alone in your office or wherever you are. Sit comfortably and put your hands on the keyboard of your computer. Try to relax the muscles of your body, neck, arms and especially those of the face.
Type the date at the top of the Word page or another program you use. Think of any theme, for example, flowers, trees, or mountains, anything.
Pay attention in your mind and everything that comes go writing, without judging.
As the sentences are coming, your critical sense begins to manifest. Forget critical sense and consider each sentence as precious to you.
At first, you may have difficulties, but over time, you can write messages, striking sentences, poetry and even whole texts.
My Experience with Free Writing
I have written many texts through auto-writing. I do not know if they are important or not. I do not know the written texts automatically have errors or if they have not. There are probably mistakes and I correct those I encounter. In addition, I stopped fearing what others think about my automatic writing. I intend to publish everything I have written, everything I am writing and everything I will write automatically.
I would say that over 90% of my book The Little God and the Book of Victories was written automatically. I spent over 15 years with this book on the computer to create courage and publish it. The same thing happened with my book of tales Holy Blood. The short stories in the book were written automatically in less than 10 minutes each, including The Blue Hills that I make available for you.