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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kerouac's #9: Dig those unspeakable visions man

It's been a while since I did a commentary on one of Kerouac's really groovy Belief & Technique for Modern Prose List of Essentials. If you're interested you can see the start of my commentaries here. But if you would like to look at #8, which was the last one I did here it is. As I say, I haven't done one for a while, and the whole process is taking longer than I'd like. But, hey, that's the writer's life isn't it? Kerouac has thirty items on his list: I guess you'll be reading them for a while pardners!

So, to #9:

The unspeakable visions of the individual

Now, you'd think that if something (in this case a vision) is unspeakable it pretty much means that it isn't writable either. After all, writing is simply another form of communication is it not? For my taste it's about the best form as well, but that's another story eh? Anyway, what does it mean, this unspeakable?

Well, it is about secrets. About things we keep quiet, things that come from the darkness of our subconscious, our fantasy life, or our dreams. It's also about the nature of the secret, or vision (more on vision in a minute okay?): we all have odd ideas, thoughts, fantasies, desires, etc, that are about stuff we'd rather not share with others. Could be a sexual fantasy, or a horror movie that runs in our heads or through our dreams. Or maybe it's about memories we'd rather not revisit. We've all got them haven't we?

Of course it has to be said here that those unspeakable things aren't necessarily of the negative or 'bad' variety: there are many many delightful and 'good' things we're not able or unwilling to speak aloud. Yes?

There's another aspect to 'unspeakable'. A thing may not necessarily fit the aforementioned secret type categories, but nevertheless be unspeakable. It might simply be that we don't have the words, or the means to speak it, whatever it is. We may really want to speak (or write) about these things, but just can't find the way with words that we need. Or think we need

Now, the vision thing. Here I think Kerouac simply means the things we see, think, feel, dream, fantasise and so on. Not actual visions as in angels appearing for example. Mind you, I mustn't discount the possibility, nor should you, that such visions may occur. I suppose if I were to be honest here (and of course this being a blog devoted to truth and all that, I am obliged to do so), I would have to admit that there have been times when I have seen visions. Just a little tangent: when I was in my late teens I drank a lot of wine. I never touched dope etc, and friends and assorted party companions would say, how come you don't do dope man? And I would say, 'I prefer wine because it gives me visions'. Cool eh? Now, I won't say just now if it really did or not. Maybe it was more about a fear of drugs and stuff ... another time okay?

Let's get back on track. I think that's enough about the vision thing. Except to say, we all have visions of one sort or another, literal or metaphoric.

And, have you noticed that our friend Mr Kerouac is not actually saying we have to speak these unspeakable visions. Oops, forgot the individual bit. That's you, okay? Not plural you, just you, yourself. He speaks of the visions you have that are yours, nobody else's. Dig?

I think he just means we have to acknowledge that we have them, these unspeakable visions. I think he is suggesting that it is essential for writers to have these visions. Or, and I like this idea, to be visionaries. Hey, that's me! You too! Visionaries. (the topic of visionaries is too big for this post. I'll make a note to think about it for another time, okay?)

So, what do we do if we don't have unspeakable visions. Ummm. You don't think you have them? Sorry, you do. We all do, as I said, in one form or another. Maybe old Jack is trying to say acknowledge those visions man. And as I say, you don't have to force yourself to speak what is unspeakable: it's about the idea that having such visions can inform your writing, sort of sitting in the background leading you, giving you ideas (and inspiration).

In a way, this idea is about spending time reflecting. Get in touch with your visions, whether they are from your dreams (the day ones or the sleep time ones), your memories (the good and the bad), your fantasies (the dark and the light ones), or from wherever they come from.

I'm not sure Kerouac was a supreme example of this, but here is one last idea to think about: the time spent in reflection on those unspeakable visions may have one more benefit. You may find that by getting in touch with your own visions (of both the unspeakable and speakable varieties: never forget there are lots of speakable visions we all have too), by acknowledging the existence of these 'visions' and then pending time on reflecting on them, may actually enable you to find a way to speak them. It will also be a powerful exercise in its own right. And for any writer, or any human really, this can only lead to growth and development.

Thanks for reading!


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