by JENNIFER ROVA
|picture by Palumbo 1965|
Jack Kerouac, 1922-1969, developed a personalized style of writing called spontaneous prose. It is also called free writing, automatic writing and unstructured writing. It is about sitting down and writing without regard to subject, grammar, punctuation or rewrite. Put down your thoughts without planning is a good definition.
It ended up making him famous through books like On The Road (1957). This is a barely fictionalized story of road trips with friends and about drinking, drugs and sex. He had copious notes but spontaneously wrote the actual book in a three-week session of writing. He composed it on one 120-foot long scroll of paper. He compared this writing technique to improvisational music of jazz musicians coupled with the teaching of Buddhism. Kerouac, Alan Ginsburg and others defined the Beat Generation, a term coined by him. Kerouac died at age 47 from abdominal bleeding due to alcoholism.
Proponents of this type of writing advertize it as a way to break writer’s block. They also expound on its ability to make us better writers if we sit down every day and write spontaneously for 15 minutes . Maybe we should try it…minus the alcohol.
ESSENTIALS OF SPONTANEOUS PROSE Jack Kerouac
SET-UP The object is set before the mind, either in reality. as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a definite image-object.
PROCEDURE Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.
METHOD No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)--"measured pauses which are the essentials of our speech"--"divisions of the sounds we hear"-"time and how to note it
down." (William Carlos Williams)
SCOPING Not "selectivity' Iof expression but following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought, swimming in sea of English with no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement, like a fist coming down on a table with each complete utterance, bang! (the space dash)-Blow as deep as you want-write as deeply, fish as far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning- excitement by same laws operating in his own human mind.
LAG IN PROCEDURE No pause to think of proper word but the infantile pileup of scatological buildup words till satisfaction is gained, which will turn out to be a great appending rhythm to a thought and be in accordance with Great Law of timing.
TIMING Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to laws of time-Shakespearian stress of dramatic need to speak now in own unalterable way or forever hold tongue-no revisions (except obvious rational mistakes, such as names or calculated insertions in act of not writing but inserting).
CENTER OF INTEREST Begin not from preconceived idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion-Do not afterthink except for poetic or P. S. reasons. Never afterthink to "improve" or defray impressions, as, the best writing is always the most painful personal wrung-out tossed from cradle warm protective mind-tap from yourself the song of yourself, blow!-now!-your way is your only way-"good"-or "bad"-always honest ("ludi- crous"), spontaneous, "confessionals' interesting, because not "crafted." Craft is craft.
STRUCTURE OF WORK Modern bizarre structures (science fiction, etc.) arise from language being dead, "different" themes give illusion of "new" life. Follow roughly outlines in outfanning movement over subject, as river rock, so mindflow over jewel-center need (run your mind over it, once) arriving at pivot, where what was dim-formed "beginning" becomes sharp-necessitating "ending" and language shortens in race to wire of time-race of work, following laws of Deep Form, to conclusion, last words, last trickle-Night is The End.
MENTAL STATE If possible write "without consciousness" in semi-trance (as Yeats' later "trance writing") allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary and so "modern" language what conscious art would censor, and write excitedly, swiftly, with writing-or-typing- cramps, in accordance (as from center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich's "beclouding of consciousness." Come from within, out-to relaxed and said.