When you go into automatic writing, you quiet the incessant chatter of the monkey mind, and you turn up your intuition. You’re able to plug back into a knowing that’s always been there.”
— Michael Sandler, The Automatic Writing Experience
Automatic writing is a simple practice to open up communication between the conscious and subconscious mind. You can learn to uncover your intuition, find clarity in life, and unearth hidden truths about yourself. The practice requires no special skills — and it takes only 5–10 minutes of your time.
Here’s how you can use automatic writing on a regular basis to help you reconnect with yourself.
What is automatic writing?
According to the The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, automatic writing removes “conscious control or mental censorship, transcribing immediately the promptings of the unconscious mind.”
In short, it’s journaling without thinking. You use a ritual to get into a hypnotic trance, go deep within, and start writing down whatever comes, often without noticing what the words say.
During automatic writing, you get your brain out of the way and receive messages that you need to hear at this moment. You tap into your subconscious and access information that you might not be consciously aware of. In fact, some automatic writing practitioners believe that they are channeling messages from their future self, the universe, God, or people who have passed away.
Surrealist poets such as André Breton used automatic writing to create art while keeping their thoughts at bay so that creativity could come through without being hindered by thinking. Psychologists examined the health benefits of writing in trance (there is no established link yet). And contemporary spiritual writers like Sarah Landon, Mike Dooley or Matt Kahn report how they have channeled books — by writing them in a deep trance, without planning the content.
It does not matter what you believe.
What’s important is that automatic writing allows you to silence the inner critic and ego for a while. You write messages to yourself without passing judgment. It’s a way to gently reconnect with yourself while the world stands still for a few minutes.
5 easy steps to get started with automatic writing
There are different ways to approach automatic writing, but they often contain:
- an element of getting into a trance or meditative state
- prompting yourself with a question
- writing down what comes without stopping or thinking
I learned automatic writing from Michael Sandler who recently taught a 21-day course at Mike Dooley’s Infinite Possibility community. The way Michael Sandler teaches it is spiritual, but that hasn’t held me back (I’m a former journalist and academic, and I kept an open mind and enjoyed every second of it). Here’s my version of it:
Step 1: Stay sleepy
Get up 20 minutes earlier than usual, and while you’re still sleepy, have a pen and paper ready. Avoid checking social media or thinking about your day, but do have a glass of water if you need it. Staying sleepy helps you keep the ‘ego’ or ‘inner critic’ silent. Poet André Breton was described as writing when he was on verge of sleep to “liberate the poetry of the unconscious mind.”
Step 2: Get into a trance or meditative state
Either meditate the way you usually do or, if meditation is not familiar to you, put on trance music with headphones (theta waves are helpful). This helps you turn off your rational thinking brain. It keeps out distractions and intrusive thoughts. Listen, breathe deeply, and open yourself to what may come.
Step 3: Envision your inner team
Make a list of who you might turn to for advice and compassionate encouragement. For me, that’s my future self (a version of myself 20 years from now), my favourite authors and coaches, and my ancestors. I close my eyes and envision each of these people appearing in turn, looking at me and sending me light and love. Your inner team can be someone real, someone who has passed away, or someone divine. It is completely up to you.
If you’re unsure, start with your future self a few years from now. Your future self has gone through all your challenges already — you can ask that older version of you for advice and compassion.
Step 4: Ask questions
Following Michael Sandler, I ask my inner team 2–3 questions and write down what comes up (it often starts with “you” as if they were addressing me):
- What do I need to know today? (Sarah Landon’s version is: What does my soul / inner guide / higher self most want me to know?)
- Who am I?
- What’s my single-minded purpose today?
When loving, kind messages appear, write them down. If you see a vision, describe it in words if you can. (P.S.: If unkind messages appear, your ego may have woken up.)
You can add any questions you like, as long as they are open questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”. For example, I’ve asked about my anxiety, creativity, and how to spend my day without stress.
I’ve received messages like “You are loved. You are enough. Go at your own pace.” I’ve also received apologies from those who have hurt me in the past. I’ve written down messages from someone in my family who passed away long ago, interestingly in my native language German (the person was German). I really don’t care where exactly those messages come from — it might be the gentler version of myself, or spirits, or those people that I imagine. It feels grounding and loving.
Step 5: Close with gratitude
I like to thank all my guides for their positive energy and insights and write thank you three times on the page. Then I take a deep breath, turn off the theta wave music, and open my eyes. Later in the day, I will read what I’ve written and try to remind myself of the positive, warm energy I’ve created.
Bonus tip: Have everything ready at your bedside table
When you start a new habit, it’s easiest when you prepare the ‘ingredients’ beforehand. I lay out my notebook, pen, and headphones next to my bed. I also have the theta wave music ready on my phone for the next morning.
Why you should do automatic writing
Throughout your day, your mind can go off in a million different directions. You get stressed, fuss about unimportant things, and don’t quite feel yourself. By using automatic writing, you bring your mind back to the present moment. It’s a great way to work through any feelings that may be holding you back from living the life you want. It’s a safe, non-judgmental space where you can explore your deepest thoughts, emotions, and experiences — without having to worry about whether they’re “good” or “bad” or what anyone else will think of them. You can just explore and express whatever comes up.
A nice side effect is that I’ve been able to be more creative after automatic writing. I’ve come up with ideas for my coaching, my book, and for reconnecting in new ways with friends and relatives.