by Josh Jones, Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/2013/10/jack-kerouac-explains-the-nine-essentials-of-writing-spontaneous-prose.html
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
Jack Kerouac wants you to turn writing into “free deviation
(association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought,
swimming in sea of English with no discipline, other than rhythms of
rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement …”.
Think you can do
Find out by following Kerouac’s “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose.” He published this document in Black Mountain Review
in 1957 and wrote it in response to a request from Allen Ginsberg and
William S. Burroughs that he explain his method for writing The Subterraneans in three days time.
And for a theory of Kerouac’s not quite theory, visit the site of
Marissa M. Juarez, professor of Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching
of English at the University of Arizona.
Juarez raises some salient
points about why Kerouac’s “Essentials” bemuse the English teacher: His
method “discourages revision … chastises grammatical correctness, and
encourages writerly flexibility.”
Read Kerouac’s full “Essentials of
Spontaneous Prose” here or below [note: If you see what looks like typos, they are not errors. They are part of Kerouac's original, spontaneous text].
The object is set before the mind, either in
reality. as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or
is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a
Time being of the essence in the purity
of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of
personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of
No periods separating sentence-structures
already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless
commas - but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as
jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases) - “measured pauses
which are the essentials of
our speech” - “divisions of the sounds we hear” - “time and how to note it down” (William Carlos Williams).
Not “selectivity” of expression but
following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless
blow-on-subject seas of thought, swimming in sea of English with no discipline other than rhythms of
rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement, like a fist coming
down on a table with each complete utterance, bang! (the space dash) -
blow as deep as you want - write as deeply, fish as far down as you want,
satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic
shock and meaning - excitement by same laws operating in his own human
LAG IN PROCEDURE
No pause to think of proper word
but the infantile pileup of scatological buildup words till satisfaction
is gained, which will turn out to be a great appending rhythm to a
thought and be in accordance with Great Law of timing.
Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to
laws of time - Shakespearian stress of dramatic need to speak now in own
unalterable way or forever hold tongue - no revisions (except obvious
rational mistakes, such as names or calculated insertions in act of not
writing but inserting).
CENTER OF INTEREST
Begin not from preconceived idea
of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject
of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of
language to peripheral release and exhaustion - do not afterthink except
for poetic or P. S. reasons. Never afterthink to “improve” or defray
impressions, as, the best writing is always the most painful personal
wrung-out tossed from cradle warm protective mind - tap from yourself the
song of yourself, blow! - now! - your way is your only way - “good” - or
“bad” - always honest (“ludi- crous”), spontaneous, “confessionals’
interesting, because not “crafted.” Craft is craft.
STRUCTURE OF WORK
Modern bizarre structures
(science fiction, etc.) arise from language being dead, “different”
themes give illusion of “new” life. Follow roughly outlines in
outfanning movement over subject, as river rock, so mindflow over
jewel-center need (run your mind over it, once) arriving at pivot, where
what was dim - formed “beginning” becomes sharp - necessitating “ending”
and language shortens in race to wire of time - race of work, following
laws of Deep Form, to conclusion, last words, last trickle - Night is The
If possible write “without
consciousness” in semi-trance (as Yeats’ later “trance writing”)
allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary
and so “modern” language what conscious art would censor, and write
excitedly, swiftly, with writing-or-typing cramps, in accordance (as from
center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich’s “beclouding of
consciousness.” Come from within, out-to relaxed and said.
Oh, and for authenticity’s sake, you should try Kerouac’s “Essentials” on a typewriter. It’s all he had when he wrote The Subterraneans. No grammar robots to distract him.
via Al Filries