In its essence, my job is to put words together—in a row. Sure, there’s some syntax to abide by, a pretense toward meaning, but by-and-large robots can do it. To keep ahead, I’m on the lookout for new ways of writing. Innovations in the word-trade are rare (cut-up technique anyone?) but there’s always plenty of past from which to poach. This is what I discovered …
Asemic Writing This is writing with no specific semantic content. It may sound like social media posts but the resemblance ends there: asemic writing is usually rendered to graphically suggest handwriting and is regarded as a kind of hybrid of literary and abstract art. I learned about asemic writing when I spied a headline in An Art in America article that read: “A Recent Book Explores What It Means to Write Without Meaning.” The title caught my eye, given its unbearable similarity to my own oeuvre. If I’d known asemic writing was such a thing, I wouldn’t have spent so many bleary mornings deciphering the drunken contents of my reporter’s notebooks. I would’ve just published the wine-stained prose as “art” and let the critics do the damn writing.
Psychography A fancier way of saying “automatic writing,” psychography often turns up in horror films as a cheap form of exposition. A character, pen in hand, is overcome with a scrawling-fit only to find they’ve inscribed a dark clue belying the malevolent intentions of some spirit (not be confused with a ghostwriting, e.g., when real writers help fake writers finish their homework). Are these wicked words subconscious or supernatural? Skeptics suggest the answer lies in the “ideomotor phenomenon,” wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously but with legible penmanship. And often a personal grudge. It’s the same phenomenon that pushes the planchette around the Ouija board (when it isn’t you—and we all know it’s you—you can’t scare us).
Freewriting In her classic 1934 tome, Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande advised aspiring writers to sit and write for 30 minutes as quickly as possible. This is uncanny since that’s how many of us professionals now make our living. For that matter, the term “freewriting” is a bit too close to some pay rates (why didn’t we put up paywalls in the ’90s?). Hopefully, Brande’s prescience ends there: besides advocating freewriting, she was also a proponent of American fascism, which, at present writing, is just one canceled election away. Get your free speech in now or we’ll find ourselves freewriting on the gulag walls. Unless, of course, the robots are already doing it.
Daedalus Howell freewrites at DaedalusHowell.com.