I Express Myself Through Writing
Only logged in members can reply and interact with the post.
Join Similar Worlds today »

Something completely different!

If writing surrealism is all about expressing your unconscious, you’re going to need a reliable method of channelling its contents. One route, albeit a cripplingly expensive one, is learning to free associate in psychoanalysis.

Fortunately, more economical help is at hand from Andre Breton himself, writing in the Surrealist Manifestos:

Have writing materials brought, once you are settled in a place as favourable as possible for focusing the mind on itself. Put yourself in the most passive, or receptive, state you can. Forget about your genius, your talents, and those of others. Tell yourself repeatedly that literature is one of the saddest roads leading to everything. Write swiftly with no preconceived subject, swiftly enough that you cannot retain it, and are not tempted to re-read.

Breton’s method is otherwise known as free or automatic writing. Morning pages are also an incredibly effective way of accessing your unconscious, as you’re writing fresh from sleep, with your dream life still within reach.

I’d argue that these pages do more than simply clear the cobwebs from your consciousness. They provide you with a clear communication from your unconscious, which you can later plunder for inspiration.

What should you write and how should you write it?
Writers of surrealist fiction have developed a repertoire of techniques for bringing the unconscious into their work. Here’s a few for you to try.

Use shocking imagery and juxtapositions – Follow the example of Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, which featured synaesthetic candy tastings and fantastical voyages into (none too clean) toilets. Practice those morning pages and over time your imagination will deliver up some truly disconcerting results.
Be sparingly, poetically surreal – As with Pynchon, surrealism can run through an entire novel like words through a stick of rock, or you can use it more sparingly. One episode in the enormously affecting Beloved by Toni Morrison is devoted to a poetic, stream-of-consciousness monologue communicating the title character’s experience of death. Struggling to express herself through the semi-verbal perceptions of babyhood, Beloved’s spirit wonders, ‘…how can I say things that are pictures?’ It’s a beautiful and devastating example of literary surrealism, as well as an inspiring example of how to confront the problem of writing the unconscious.
Play with time – In the unconscious, time isn’t recognised. Speculative fiction writer JG Ballard – who was fascinated by psychoanalysis – was especially preoccupied with writing about situations where time is collapsed or just plain wrong. Ballard devoted whole works to this theme, but you don’t have to go so far: experimenting with non-linear narrative, epiphany and other unconventional storytelling techniques works well to evoke unconscious processes.
Unite reality and unreality – In The Life of Pi, Yann Martel’s eponymous hero tells a magical, dream-like account of his shipwreck. The author also teases readers with a more realistic interpretation of Pi’s story, and even asks which version we prefer. But the wise reader knows that the real truth is not a simple question of either/or. To understand Pi’s experience completely, we must accept the fantastical account together with the more mundane version. That we sense the need to do this is a tribute to the way Martel unites the unreal and the real, an indispensable surrealist device.
Don’t overlook the collective unconscious – It would be remiss of me to finish without acknowledging that the unconscious, as CG Jung believed, operates on a collective as well as an individual level. This is a major theme in Yasutaka Tsutsui’s 1993 novel Paprika, set in a society where psychiatrists can enter the dreams of their patients. The collective unconscious influences speculative fiction on a much deeper, more powerful level, too. Any work with its roots in mythology, like superhero fiction or stories based on The Hero’s Journey, expresses some aspect of the collective unconscious.
Oldest First | Newest First | Top
MostlyBehaved · 41-45, M
Are you taking this approach? Has it been productive?
LouisMC · 22-25, F
[@1169075,MostlyBehaved] I've only just put it up! I'm hopeful!
MostlyBehaved · 41-45, M
Certainly seems promising.

I wake up after each dream all night sometimes. Wish there was a way to capture them all without fully awakening to log them. [@1169759,LouisMC]
LouisMC · 22-25, F
[@1169075,MostlyBehaved] Your phone notes memo?
Janetwn · F
It reminded me Annie Lamott in the book Bird by Bird " Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft."
Thanks for sharing.
My shrink would charge me way too much to enter my dreamworld😵
[@1118414,OHPUHLEEZE] I never spend a dime on that. 😁
Rambler · M
Very interesting.

Post Comment  
4397 people following
I Express Myself Through Writing
Personal Stories, Advice, and Support
New Post
Hobbies Writings
Group Members