Automatic Writing

When I took a mandatory Art class in High School, one of the exercises we performed was to take charcoal and while staring at the person across from us, draw a full-size portrait without ever looking down at the paper in front of us. I was amazed at how the deep inner spirit of the person was captured in the nuances of the charcoal portraits.

Actually, I’m lying:  most of these drawings were unrecognizable as even being of a human being and unless their inner spirit was similar to a dark scramble of meaningless, unconnected smudges, then I don’t think the exercise was a success. We also did a similar exercise where we stared at the subject for way too long and then with closed eyes took charcoal in hand and drew a similar smudge.

So I mentioned that John Dos Passos experimented in Automatic Writing. The key point of my comment was that the author experimented with extending the process of writing fiction. Automatic Writing itself is generally considered a technique to tap the deep inner spirit of the author but despite the more surrealistic examples, the result is more often a verbal smudge.

Interestingly, The Skeptic’s Dictionary has something to say about Automatic Writing:

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