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Jack Kerouac's Craft
Kerouac wrote "On the Road" in a 3-week creative storm, typing madly on a continuous role of teletype paper. The myth was born: "First draft, best draft." How many 1960's college students spewed out their prose in a single burst of 2 A.M. "inspiration" defending their method as art, sneering at revisions as artifice. Don't tamper with the muse!
But I was reared in the plodding "all writing is revision" school of thought, where rare bursts of inspiration can at best only be thought of as ore to be processed into something useful.
So it did my heart good to hear that "On the Road" emerged from piles of notebooks Kerouac kept for years (see NPR story link below). He had diligently prepared for his "spontaneous" work — like a Zen monk who spends his life meditating, then jumps up to paint a loose and lively composition in a matter of minutes. Observers of his life say he wrote and re-wrote as he sought to get published.
Still, his Beat style is loose and poetic — a good tonic for this plodding bricklayer of a writer.
When you carefully read his "technique" (below), you can see the wellspring of his method: joyous trust in his own perceptions and feelings — an ability to reach deep, deep inside — fearlessness about telling a story from his own heart. These days, the internet is filled will unedited stream of consciousness writing, but how little of it comes from fearless storytellers?
Belief and Technique for Modern Prose by Jack Kerouac — his guide to "spontaneous writing":
Jack Kerouac on Wikipedia.
Jack Kerouac on NPR, with photos and audio clips.
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