What Is Automatic Writing?

Automatic writing

From Sherlock Holmes To ChatGPT

Did you know that some exploits of Sherlock Holmes may not have sprung from the mind of the famous detective’s creator, but rather from some other universal force? Yes, Arthur Conan Doyle was a practitioner of automatic writing. It’s a fascinating form of expression, where the writer scribbles away without conscious thought or control.

Variations of this writing process have existed for centuries. You can bet numerous creative souls are practising psychography as you read this. Some may be less sentient than others. In our modern age, many would consider AI-generated poetry an automatic performance.

What Is Automatic Writing?

Automatic writing, also known as psychography, is a form of writing that is done without the conscious control or intention of the writer. Since it is a means of receiving inspiration from a source beyond the conscious mind, it is often linked with the spiritual, supernatural or paranormal.

Those less interested in the spiritual aspect see the practice as a method to access and explore the mysteries of their subconscious mind.

How do you practice spirit writing? Well, it’s easy, really. Prepare for the writing session by allowing yourself to enter a relaxed or altered state. Then, simply begin to write or type without consciously thinking about what you’re scribing. Write quickly, aim for a spontaneous flow, and don’t you dare stop to self-edit!

The History And Applications Of Psychography

Throughout history, people have claimed to receive messages from gods, spirits and the great beyond. The origins of psychography can be traced back to ancient civilisations, where folk believed in divine or supernatural messaging.


Early examples of automatic scribing include:

  • Enochian Language: In 16th century England, occultists and magicians John Dee and Edward Kelley claimed that angels had revealed a new language to them. They called it the Enochian language, and it became their channel of communication with the spirit world. They transcribed messages using a complex and rather mysterious alphabet.
  • Fuji: A practice called Fuji or spirit writing has been performed in China since the Song dynasty, dating back to the 1200s. It involves using a planchette pointer or cursor to write messages from deities and spirits on sand or paper.

The Spiritualists

In the 19th century, automatic writing became popular among spiritualists and occultists. They believed that they could communicate with the dead and other entities through writing. It became one of the popular methods used by mediums and psychics during séances with other tools like the Ouija board.

The Surrealists

In the early 20th century, the Surrealist movement and other experimental artists drew inspiration from psychography and other forms of tapping into the subconscious mind. Artists and writers like André Breton, Salvador Dalí and Gertrude Stein experimented with these techniques to create innovative and surreal works.

Psychology and Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, whose theories delved heavily into the subconscious, explored the benefits of automatic writing in their work. They employed similar techniques like free association and automatic drawing with many of their patients.

A Guide To Spirit Writing

Before we share how to practice trance writing, let’s consider the many modern applications of the practice.

Spiritual and Paranormal

Automatic writing is often used as a way to communicate with spirits. Or to receive messages from the other side. This includes opening yourself up to messages from angels and your higher power.

“This is our message to you; be open to spirit, and we will come”, as the channelled writings of Rev. Dr Sandra TePoel invite.

Psychological Applications

When used in psychology and related areas, the technique is a tool to access thoughts and emotions. Or for memories that are normally deeply buried beyond conscious awareness. Automatic writing, especially in a trance state, is seen as a form of dissociation and altered consciousness.

Benefits may include gaining guidance, accessing blocked knowledge, or simply exploring inner thoughts and feelings.

Sparking Creativity or Fun

Many people revel in the freedom of letting go and allowing inspiration and creativity to run riot.

Authors have used ghost-style writing to bust through writer’s block or relieve a routine grind. Many swear it is a way to reconnect with and channel your soul’s wisdom.

A 7-Step Guide To Automatic Writing

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. Purists prefer to handwrite with pen (or pencil) and paper – especially when engaging in a spiritual practice. However, it is also okay to use a laptop or other device if it works for you.
  2. Relax your mind and body. The idea is to be calm and mentally free of distraction. You can do some breathing exercises or meditation. Ardent practitioners use calming music and even crystals to reach a trance-like state to access the unconscious mind.
  3. Set an intention or a question for your psychography session. Write it down or say it out loud. For example, you may want to ask for guidance on a specific issue or generate a bunch of creative ideas for an ad campaign. You could also use channelling to ask those big life questions… Like ‘Dear Soul, why am I so afraid of commitment?’, for example
  4. Start writing whatever comes to your mind. It’s important not to censor, edit, or judge yourself during the session. Just let the words flow freely and spontaneously. Don’t worry about spelling, logic, phrasing, or sentence structure. Try to keep writing continuously without stopping or reading back what you wrote.
  5. When you feel that you are done, stop writing and thank yourself or any other source of inspiration that you believe in. If you want to set an alarm or timer on the exercise, it’s okay to do so.
  6. Read what you wrote and see if anything stands out to you. You may find some surprising, meaningful or creative messages in what you’ve written.
  7. If no immediate insights or messages jump out, set the piece aside for a while. You can always come back later to analyse and interpret it further. Depending on the purpose and your preference, you can share your writing with others. Sharing may spark more insights but also bring outside suggestions to the exercise.


Who are some famous practitioners of automatic writing?

Arthur Conan Doyle, W.B. Yeats, Gertrude Stein, Andre Breton and Pearl Curran were some notable literary figures who reportedly used automatic writing techniques.

Is automatic writing the same as free writing?

Automatic writing and free writing both encourage free and unedited creative expression. Free writing usually involves the writer retaining control. Whereas, spirit writing places more emphasis on the scribe surrendering control and writing without conscious thought. Both tap into wells of inspiration, but psychography is also linked with spiritual and psychological elements.

Signing Off

Some people use automatic writing as a form of self-exploration or creative expression. But, others believe it is a means of receiving spiritual insights. Each is a valid approach, and there is some scientific evidence that the method has been helpful in the field of psychology.

Ultimately, the value you gain from spirit writing will depend on your needs, preferences and practical application.


Sam Ashford
Sam Ashford - Author

Hey, I'm Sam Ashford! I'm a ghost-hunting expert, writer and founder of SpiritShack. My mission is to help people like yourself learn about spirituality and how to hunt ghosts!