Jack Kerouac’s Belief and Technique for Writing Modern Prose In 30 Bullet Points

The writer (March 12, 1922–October 21, 1969) left us his Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a 30-point list to becoming a better writer and thinker.

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
— Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums



Do we understand everything on Jack Kerouac’s list on how to be a better writer? Maybe it’s best not to overthink the words, but go with their flow? The writer (March 12, 1922–October 21, 1969) left us his Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a 30-point list to becoming a better writer and deeper thinker. The list, said to have been stuck to the wall of Allen Ginsberg’s hotel room in San Francisco’s North Beach in 1953, a year before he wrote his poem Howl, is about being true to yourself and perseverance.

The essential part, as with all lists, is about discipline. Writing prose is the hardest thing, as Ernest Hemingway told his only protege, so adherence to some kind of base is good. Rules can tame your fear of writing. But they’re not all. Kerouac’s aim is to get what you feel down on paper. And make it yours. Embrace life. See writing as a refuge for discovering what you think. And feel the joy of expression and coming to terms with your own thoughts.

“Kerouac had myth to him all right, but it only came through his ability to become his own ‘true’ self on paper,” said
Seymour Krim, Kerouac’s friend.

With guidance comes the freedom to write “without consciousness”,  as he noted in his rule for spontaneous writing so evident in On the Road, his beat classic written on a 36 meter-long, hand-typed manuscript. As with Yeats’ “trance writing”, freedom means connecting with your subconscious and “swimming in [a] sea of language”.


Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac’s Belief and Technique for Modern Prose in 30 points:

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
  4. Be in love with yr life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You’re a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Lead Image: Floating in Wateravailable as a print in the Shop.

Would you like to support Flashbak?

Please consider making a donation to our site. We don't want to rely on ads to bring you the best of visual culture. You can also support us by signing up to our Mailing List. And you can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For great art and culture delivered to your door, visit our shop.