I shall be using this space as a site for various kinds of writing, with a view to maintaining some kind of regular discipline, a way of encouraging myself to write something every day. My hope is that this will stimulate the output of some meaningful work.
Unfortunately I am afflicted with the curse of writer’s block, which means that long periods of time can accumulate between any literary dribblings I find myself able to secrete. How I sympathise with Flaubert, who endured agonies in his attempts to create worlds from his imagination with mere scratchings of ink on paper and the limited medium of language as his materials. The fear of failure, that perennial threat to the delicate carapace of amour propre which enfolds its protective shell around the poor vulnerable little ego, is the bold imagination’s shackle; stultification of the mind is the dismal psychic duty levied on the self in exchange for its petty comfort. That’s how it is for me, anyway, and perhaps Flaubert’s affliction was due to a similar fear. But he shines forth as a great writer who overcame his creative problems to produce masterpieces. I can only aspire to such an exemplary achievement.
A technique I have successfully used in the past to create poems is semi-automatic writing, a method similar to one employed by David Gascoyne during his Surrealist period. I sit at the word processor, eyes shut, fingers poised over the keys, in perfect silence and stillness. I try to let all directed thought fall away, perhaps in a manner similar to that of meditation, and wait for random images and phrases to emerge out of the obscure dark regions of my mind. I immediately type the words that come to me, avoiding as much as possible any compulsion to filter. Some censorship does occur during this phase of the process, however. This is because some ideas simply do not feel ‘right’ when they appear, and I wish to avoid stemming the flow of ideation with material that, I am sure, is not fully preconscious – these images seem to be tainted somehow with intentionality, and therefore feel awkward. Thus I discard them as I am composing. I continue in this manner until I have the feeling that the piece – the poem, text, or whatever I decide to call it – has reached its proper end. Mostly the end result does not require any editing, although sometimes a ‘wrong’ word, image or phrase will have to be expunged. If I feel that a title is needed, I will find one using the same methodology. What I find fascinating about writing this way is that form often appears spontaneously – paragraphs, metre, coherent grammatical units, stanzas – even though I am not approaching the task with any intention of imposing a structure a priori.
I find that pure automatic writing, as used by Breton et al., will generate far more gibberish than artistically viable results, whereas the semi-automatic approach seems to enable me to write at least some valuable texts. The absence of shapelessness in semi-automatic works is no doubt the result of some kind of conscious or preconscious moulding, yet it happens that spontaneity is not trammelled.
I would argue that automatic writing is catharsis while semi-automatic writing is an art form.