Sample 1: Blooming
I sat huddled on the floor, child’s pose, my legs tucked under me, arms pulled in tight, forehead on the ground. I was a seed, safe within my shell, under the earth. I was being held. I felt the warmth of the sun in the soil around me, and the urge to grow stretched one arm out toward the sky and a leg snaking downward in search of minerals and water. Soon another arm shot up followed by shoots and branches everywhere, twigs ending in fingers of tiny leaves and buds. I was rooted in the ground now, and my branches swayed in the wind. My stems were covered with thorns; I was a wild rose. I grew strong and bold and proud. Tiny pink buds began to form at my fingertips. I held on to them tight. Soon they would grow and bloom in all their splendor, showing my glory for the world to see! Reluctantly, one by one, I let them open, deep, deep red now, resplendent in the sun. My chest hurt, my branches shook, and with the effort, I cried.
Sample 2: Tibetan Myth
Seventeen. I was on my first solo vacation away from home, camping with some kids I knew. Standing on a farm road, a quarter mile to the section line, as dusty as the conversation around me. I wished myself away from there. There was something on the road now, someone coming. They were on horseback, riding toward us, a young man riding free under the sky. I was the only one who saw him. When he came close enough to see his face, I saw that he was me. I stepped back from the shock of being male. He looked at me, surrounded by my band of ethereal flesh-people, and rode on by, taking a part of me with him. What had happened before this moment and what happened after is of no consequence.
Years later I learned that in ancient Tibet this was one way teenage boys were called to become shamans.
For me, what makes “unconscious writing” different from planned, or analytical, writing is that instead of writing what I want to say, I enter fully into an experience and write what I feel. It isn’t entirely “automatic” writing; for example, in the piece called “Blooming,” I was fully aware that I was using language which interchangeably described myself as a person and a plant. I didn’t plan this; it just happened. I thought, “This is cool!” and I let it flow.
The entire time I was writing the second piece, “Tibetan Myth,” my brain kept reminding me that no one would understand the title. There was a fair amount of back story that would have made everything clear, but I didn’t want to leave the flow of the experience. So I wrote on faith what I had felt that day, and in the end, I found one sentence to shed at least a little light on the bigger picture. It was a compromise I made with my brain. Without the last sentence, the piece in its “unconscious” form carries a lot more power on its own.
When you read these samples, what do you notice about them? What do you like or dislike? How do they emote any feelings they may bring up in you? What, if anything, would you want to emulate in your own writing? Do they stand on their own? What would you change, or how would you expand on them, to move them from what is written solely for the author to something written for a larger purpose with an audience in mind? Try some of your ideas on your own work. Happy writing!
*photo (c) Art Held, 2016
Next up: Part III – The Larger Perspective