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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Automatic writing: turning the censor around (Part Two)

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Eugenia Gallardo
Eugenia Gallardo
Literariamente Eugenia se define como hija de Asturias y Cervantes; prima de Monterroso y Batres Montúfar; amiga de Yourcenar y Christie. Su obra ha sido traducida al italiano y francés, e incluida en antologías. Publica poco y escribe mucho; la crítica ha sido generosa con los frutos de su inventiva. En 2020 y 2021 fue nominada al Premio Nacional de Literatura. Floreció en dos hijas y dos nietas. Casada de dos hervores, hoy es soltera empedernida. Creció en Cobán, Huehuetenango y la Ciudad de Guatemala. Entre aventuras y exilios ha vivido en Nueva Orleans, Sao Paulo, Atlanta, Carolina del Norte, Londres, Madrid y Costa Rica. Es Máster en Ciencias en Economía de América Latina (Universidad de Londres). Como economista política se ha dedicado principalmente a la investigación social. Escritora, dramaturga, actriz y artista plástica, su principal motivación es la creatividad y la experimentación.

The censor is that little voice that annoys us when we are writing. It says why do we mention this or that or why do we use that word or if something is going to be misunderstood or if the story breaks some non-explicit family confidentiality agreement or if we’re copying someone’s style and so on. The censor is not satisfied with meddling in what has already been written, he is also in charge of interrupting and not letting us write, like cats sitting on computer keyboards or hunting pencils. To turn around such a chocarrero spirit, automatic writing was invented. It simply consists of writing everything that comes to mind, without reflecting, without trying to be logical, without ordering ideas, even without constructing sentences. It can be a simple list of unrelated or related words (if they come naturally that way). The point is not to stop writing so that the censor does not have time to censor or warn. It is advisable to set a limit to perform the exercise intensely, but with the peace of mind of knowing when we are going to stop. This is important because the mind does not want to go crazy and arbitrary and commands us to take back control. What limit do we set? It may be that we establish five minutes or three sheets of notebook: when we fill the sheets or sound the alarm we stop, wherever we are. Halfway through the exercise, it may be that the head tells us: I no longer have anything, but one goes on and writes even if it is “I no longer have anything”, the point is not to stop. And when we reach the limit that we ourselves imposed, the challenge is not to continue, even if we are enthralled with what is flowing: that rich stream of the word. In automatic writing we let ourselves go in free fall but we respect the limits to gain confidence and security. I assure you that the censor cat gets bored and falls asleep and our writing produces diamonds that otherwise we would not know we keep in our souls. Later we will see what to do and what not to do with these writings. Let us remember that to write our own history we have already established a private space, a sacred and uninterrupted time and a secret place to protect our texts. Let’s use those tools for the automatic writing exercises. It’s sound advice: don’t rush out and share your writing; they risk running into a flesh and blood censor, not the imaginary one we have talked about, a flesh and blood censor who, out of ignorance or bad faith, makes a comment that paralyzes them. As we begin to write our history, if we are going to approach it with integrity, honesty and fortitude, we are vulnerable and must treat each other delicately. Seeing our history in writing is such a wonderful gift that the process deserves love and care. Love yes: because it is a declaration of affection and consideration for the life that we have had to live. In the next column we will explore various levels of automatic writing and what to do with the texts that are born from the exercises.


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