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Monday, August 2, 2010

Jack Kerouac: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose


Mary posted this list of advice from Jack Kerouac in her blog the other day (part of a longer discussion on style with Joshua), and I thought it worth reposting. Here's what that ol' dharma bum Jack said about writing more than fifty years ago:

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a list of thirty "essentials".


1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside your own house
4. Be in love with your life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

--Jack Kerouac, "Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials" from a 1958 letter to Don Allen, published in Heaven & Other Poems (1958, Grey Fox Press).

Want more advice from uncle Jack? Check out "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose."

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau