In 1958, Jack Kerouac, author of On The Road and other novels and books of poetry, wrote “Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials.” It started in a letter to Don Allen, and was included also in the collection of his writing, Heaven & Other Poems.
It’s a beautifully lyrical, inspirational and instructive list of 30 bits of writing advice. A great proponent of spontaneous writing, his approach to writing prose is directly applicable to songwriting in terms of translating the experience of life into language fully. He lovingly advises writers to take in the world completely, to fill the creative well from which we draw. And then how to connect with the source so that the music of words can flow freely, without any hindrance.
It’s linked to the songwriting experience of getting into the zone while writing =-tuning into the supernatural radio that Tom Petty and oihers wrote of – and reaching that place where the words start flowing.
Although the composition and use of prose differs from song in many ways, at the heart of each is joy, the love of expressing all aspects of being human in the world.
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Belief & Technique For Modern Prose
List of Essentials
By Jack Kerouac, 1958.
- Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
- Submissive to everything, open, listening
- Try never get drunk outside yr own house
- Be in love with yr 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 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
- Dont 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 yr 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
[“Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials” from a 1958 letter to Don Allen, in Heaven & Other Poems, Grey Fox Press, 1958, 1977, 1983.]