Tag: Automatism

William S. Burroughs & Surrealist Writing Methods

Posted November 19, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature, Writing / 2 Comments

Post-modern author, William S. Burroughs is best known for his experimental writing style.  He was a primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major influence in popular culture as well as literature.

In 1959, he released Naked Lunch which he described as “Automatic writing gone horribly wrong”. Previously, I have posted about Automatism, but it is a process of writing where the writer tries to avoid conscious thoughts.  Burroughs has said that Naked Lunch wasn’t a book he wanted to write, but he had no choice but write it: he couldn’t write anything else.  When it came to using André Breton’s method of automatism; where the subconscious focuses on one image or phase, Burroughs found his subconscious was taken over by a hostile entity. The results speaks for its self, Naked Lunch is not only full of obscene language but completely weird.

William S. Burroughs moved to Paris in the 1960’s where he met a painter named Brion Gysin. The two of them are often credited for rediscovering an old surrealist method known as Cut-up. This technique is when you take a finished piece of text, cut it up and rearrange it for a completely new novel. Burroughs experimented with this technique, which resulted in The Nova Trilogy; also known as The Cut-up Trilogy. The first book in the trilogy, The Soft Machine, was the result of the two on a journey (with the aid of some recreational drugs) to find hidden meanings in Naked Lunch. Using the cut-up technique, Burroughs wanted to find the answer to the question that had been plaguing him; the question of control; why did he have no control over the writing of Naked Lunch? The Soft Machine was first published with 182 pages; though in the second edition Burroughs removed 82 pages, replacing them with another 82 pages & with the other 100 pages, he rearranged and restructured using further cut-ups.

William S. Burroughs will always be known for his Beat influences, political trenchancies, cultural influences, his satirical writing and hopefully his experimental use of surrealist writing methods.


NaNoWriMo and Automatism

Posted January 28, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Writing / 6 Comments

André Breton, not only a poet but the founder of the Surrealist Movement took a big interest in Freud’s works on the unconscious mind. Breton found an unexpected beauty in the ravings of the unconscious patients. In attempt to capture that untapped beauty, Breton discovered Automatic Writing. A process of writing where the content does not come from a conscious thought from the writer. In some cases the writer does it in a trance but most of the times the writer does not thing about what he writes, they just write to see what comes out.

This lead to Automatism; which coved Automatic Writing, Drawing and even Music (most commonly in Free Jazz) is part of the bases of the Surrealist Movement. André Breton described the movement as “Pure psychic automatism” an attempt to capture pure untapped beauty.

Now days Automatic Writing is not used too often, but projects like NaNoWriMo, though not intended as a Surrealist project seems to push writers into a state of Automatism.

NaNoWriMo is a creative writing project that takes place in November where the participants try to write a 50,000 word story in 30 days. With a time frame like that, planning and story boards are out the window for the writer. This kind of deadline tends to lead to a lot of Automatism, giving a writer insight to a whole new way of writing.

Automatism seems to produce some very random and unusual content, but also some unexpected beauty.