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.

6 responses to “NaNoWriMo and Automatism

  1. Very interesting! I have participated in NaNoWriMo the last couple of years (winning my second year, yay for me, lol), and I frequently engage in “freewriting”. I never really thought about any connections to Surrealism, but that’s quite an interesting angle. I know that some of the best stuff I have written has sprung out of my freewriting sessions (I don’t do well marrying freewriting and deadlines, heh, so NaNo stuff isn’t quite so good).

    Fascinating post!

  2. I got some good stuff out of NaNo, but a lot of garbage too 😉 There is a lot of merit in just letting go and writing whatever comes to mind, instead of agonizing over every word every step of the way. Plenty of time to rewrite/delete later, but at least you end up with something to work with. I never thought of it as automatic writing though.

    • Michael @ Knowledge Lost

      I don’t think I could use Automatism to write a full story…my typing cant keep up with my thought process 😛

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