Last Updated on February 18, 2023
I’m new to Kerouac’s writing and even although I’ve only read ‘On the Road’ (and feel like I’m the last man on earth to do so) I already consider him an inspiration. Despite the fact I’ve been writing (and have been regularly published) for about ten years I will always consider myself a novice writer, I don’t see how any writer can consider themselves as anything else – even if you’ve sold millions of books you’ll always have so much more to learn.
I don’t claim Jack Kerouac as an inspiration stylistically – although I will admit there is a similar stream of consciousness style to my own work – I’m inspired by the ethics of his writing style as well as his bloody minded persistence in chasing artistic recognition through publication. ‘On the Road’ appealed to me because of the sideways look at life that defines it; it’s something that somewhat echoes my own anarchist leanings.
Kerouac was fond of a tipple or two and would lecture anyone who would pass within a few feet about the rules of his style – the ethics of his writing. Allen Ginsberg apparently got tired of Jack Keroauc only relaying his rules via the medium of drunken rambling and (backed up by mutual friends) encouraged him to formalise his rules as a list, and here they are:
Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a list of thirty “essentials”.
- Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
- Submissive to everything, open, listening
- Try never get drunk outside your own house
- Be in love with your life
- Something that you feel will find its own form
- Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
- Blow as deep as you want to blow
- Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
- The unspeakable visions of the individual
- No time for poetry but exactly what is
- Visionary tics shivering in the chest
- In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
- Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
- Like Proust be an old teahead of time
- Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
- The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
- Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
- Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
- Accept loss forever
- Believe in the holy contour of life
- Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
- Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better
- Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
- No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
- Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it
- Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
- In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
- Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
- You’re a Genius all the time
- Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
Now I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand every one of his thirty points, but (in much the same way as I view Keroauc’s work) I like the feel of it, the unspoken insinuations, the themes between the lines. This list represents a glorious mix of madness and sanguine sanity that speaks to me as a writer (and of course as a modern human).
I’ve spent a LOT of time over the past few years forcing myself to learn the strict rules of grammar and form, but the more books I read (and fall in love with) the more inclined I am to wander from the path of the straight and true; while being understood is still more important to my writing style than anything else I’m learning that in order to express how I (or my characters) feel on an emotional level it’s okay to break the rules occasionally.
As an aside Jack Keroauc wrote many of his books in the years before ‘On the Road’ was published. It was only once he became a best seller that publishers rushed to publish his earlier works. Speaking as a writer who has written two books (I’m currently writing a third) that are yet to be published in the mainstream I’d be a fool not to take encouragement from a fact like that.