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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Visionary Shivering: Kerouac's #11

Visionary tics shivering in the chest is #11 on Kerouac’s Belief & Technique for Modern Prose list of “rules”. All my dedicated readers will know I’ve been doing an on/off commentary on this list for a while now. Check out the list from the very start if you like .

This one is somewhat timely for me: back in November, I had a little tube put in my heart to help the blood flow more easily. I’m fine now (thank you for your concern) Of course I had no ‘tics’, and not a whole lot of visions either (which is a shame really), but I dig what Kerouac is saying here. You gotta get that it’s a metaphor, you know? It’s about that idea, that vision that hits you all of a sudden; it’s the one that gets you all excited, hot and bothered and that sets your heartbeat racing.

Old Jack is kind of saying it’s necessary to have this kind of shivery visionary tic. And if you’re a writer, it is going to happen. At least sometimes. Trouble is, you can’t depend on it: it doesn’t come on a regular schedule or on demand. The vision that gets you shivering comes from some totally alien place either deep within ourselves or from some unseen and universal source. Either way, they come on their own and all we can do is be open and ready, fingers poised over the keyboard (metaphorically speaking) to take down its dictation.

One of the ways we can get ourselves ready to receive a vision is to, well, keep our eyes open. Of course, again, it’s not just the physical eyes we’re talking about here. Although, now I think about it, it’s a good point isn’t it? I mean as a writer I have to see what’s going on around me in the material world. But, there are other eyes we have, and many of us don’t use them anywhere often enough. If we want to open the eyes in our minds and in our hearts and in our souls even, we have to just be. We have to not think we have to always be doing stuff to learn, to research, to study, whatever.

I don’t mean by all this we have to be “meditating” all the time. But what I do mean is it’s important to just be more often than we usually are. That’s it really. Doesn’t require a whole heap of explanation does it? More and more these days I see the value of just keeping all my eyes open. If we want the visions that get us shivering with excitement and anticipation at the words we are about to pour forth, then we just have to wait upon them.

Recently I read somewhere an expression I have come to use as an almost constant reminder to myself: wait timelessly. Not impatiently; not by always doing something to “prepare” or whatever; not always noticing the passing of time (which for you quantum mechanical types is a tricky concept anyway). No, it simply means to be. It means waiting timelessly for those visions that are there somewhere just waiting on us to be there ready to receive them.

PS Seems this little rave is full of split infinitives (according to my spellchecker). But who says there’s anything wrong with splitting your infinitives?

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