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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let's Get Back to Kerouac: #8 Belief & Technique for Modern Prose

Yes folks, it's time to get back to Kerouac and his writing tips. All you legions and hordes of readers of my riveting blog will recall that a while ago (when was it?) I set out to write up a commentary on the a list by Kerouac called Belief & Technique for Modern Prose List of Essentials. My plan at that stage was to do one a day-and I kept that up for a week. Alas, I found it too much for some reason at that point. I think probably I was wanting to think of other things (not to mention my need to rid myself of the compulsion and rigidity when it comes to aims, goals and things I set out to do).
So, here we go again. This time it will be more of an occasional revisiting of the list. Well, I expect we will eventually reach the end: there are only 30 items in the list. But they are pretty wild items, and really get you thinking about writing, and your role and place as a writer. For the tiny minority of blog readers who haven't seen my commentaries thus far, please feel free to go back and read the Introduction, which is followed, of course, by posts which include my commentaries on the items I've covered up till now. Now, here we go folks.

Write what you want bottomless from the bottom of your
mind.

Now, don't say you always write what you want: who does in reality? Well I guess there are some people who just write what they like for themselves for fun kind of thing. Then there are the obsessive journal keepers (cest moi!) whose meanderings will never be viewed by another. Of course, for my part, I plan on leaving mine to some library: must be somewhere a library which collects the journals of people other than the famous ones.
But, for most of us, writing is about having it read. After all, isn't that what writing is about? A vehicle to communicate ideas, stories and other stuff to a wider audience? And few, very few of us can claim that all that we've written is exactly what we have wanted to write without exception. After all, even writers gotta eat, right?
What Kerouac is saying is just write what you want. That's it. Forget eating. Forget the requirements, restrictions and other freedom killing dictates of the world and its money making minions. See? Simple. No crap. Just write. Like I'm doing here I guess (gee how lucky can you readers get? Should be charging you for this stuff!)
Bottomless? I guess this one's self-explanatory, you think? Not sure it is now I think about it. The first 'bottomless' I think could translate to something like, let it all hang out, just write without limits imposed by, well, anything. The second one refers to the writer's (that's me, maybe you too?) mind. Dig deep, try to get your internal censors out of the way, at least for the first draft type stages, you dig?
But it isn't only about the ridding of our own censors and even inhibitions when it comes to allowing our fingers to fly their own ways. It's about digging deep in terms of finding what is there. Long forgotten memories, old ideas, snippets (cool word: snippets) of conversations or of people's faces from the past that rise to the surface from time to time without warning and with no explanation. All these things reside at the bottom of the storage box in our heads.
You can dig deep as in a kind of proactive exercise where you go hunting for stuff. Or you can simply grab hold of the odd things that you see poking up asking for attention from that bottomless pit (I mean that in the nicest possible way of course). How do you put yourself into the right place to be picking up this stuff, seeing as it's buried pretty deep in that pit?
Of course we all know and have heard many times about taking notice of our dreams, writing them down etc. This is a great way to pick up on stuff that is trying to rise above that bottomless place. Then there is the old 'walk on the beach/in the forest/around the lake/wherever' method of getting the whole system open to creative input and it sure can jolt up that bottom dwelling stuff like memories, old visions, and all.
How's this for an idea? Get a friend or someone to write you an opening line. Doesn't matter if it's of the 'Dark and stormy night' variety: the key is to have it written down for you. Then you sit in front of a blank piece of paper, or a blank document in Word, type the line and don't stop. That's right: don't stop, don't 'think' with your conscious mind or whatever you call it. Just type (or write if you're using paper. Blimey, imagine that? paper!).
Many writers have stories that have come out of such an exercise. I wrote one that got a distinction in a course i was on that started with NOTHING but the line, 'This day had been a long time coming'. Nice story too. Quirky and it brought up memories of a friend from school who'd had a hard time, thought life would be over by 21, so he was going to kill himself. (he didn't: he ended up moving states and joining the Socialist Party. Which some might say is a suicide of a kind).
And there must be lots of other ways to either actively access this bottomless place in our minds, or to have ourselves made receptive to what might rise from the surface. The key is to realise there is a bottomless place that can be used for our writing.
Write what you want, from the bottom of yourself and without limitations. You may not be able to use the resultant words to sell to a publisher (though of course you might be able to), but you will have helped yourself unleash (I was going to type untether. I think I like them both, those words) that part of yourself where creativity, truth, honesty and freedom live.

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