If you get a chance, I highly recommend watching the documentary “The Beat Hotel”, highlighting the artistic community of the 50’s that housed Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and so many other iconic artists of the time when the world was changing so quickly. A little corner of the world where creativity reigned free with out compliance of the strict social norms of the time.
There was an amazing inventory …
… of activity focused within and around just one building, a creative epicenter that has been virtually overlooked in the majority of studies on the Beats.
I have no words for my envy.
It seems that the world of the artist has changed over the past decades. Commercialized so one can still have the socially accepted life with the happy house and all the trimmings. We sacrifice the freedom to drown in our work for a paycheck because, in truth, it’s a necessity. There are no more cheap French motels. And luxury is such an entrenched part of the American psyche. We expect it. Demand it.
I found myself questioning the toll our quest for luxury has had on current American Literature. It’s harder than ever to live on a writers earnings, if you earn anything at all. The rise of online literary magazines makes it harder than ever to make a dollar from a short story, forcing writers to maintain a 9-5 job. Detracting from the deep hush of a brilliant story. Now days, writers schedule a set time, as if creativity is a job. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Stephen King, On Writing.
I respect the sentiment, but I wonder what the Kerouac would say about that. This is his 30-point list, entitled Belief and Technique for Modern Prose.
- Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
- Submissive to everything, open, listening
- Try never get drunk outside yr own house
- Be in love with yr life
- Something that you feel will find its own form
- Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
- Blow as deep as you want to blow
- Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
- The unspeakable visions of the individual
- No time for poetry but exactly what is
- Visionary tics shivering in the chest
- In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
- Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
- Like Proust be an old teahead of time
- Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
- The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
- Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
- Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
- Accept loss forever
- Believe in the holy contour of life
- Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
- Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
- Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
- No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
- Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
- Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
- In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
- Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
- You’re a Genius all the time
- Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
He says nothing about writing every day or scheduling a time. He lived his art. One could even say that he drowned in it, dying at the age of 47 from internal bleeding caused by alcohol abuse. I’m not suggesting writers should kill themselves for the process of great art. But perhaps we’ve boxed it into a simple process of what should happen. Story streaming. Point by point. Over-simplified the process so that anyone can take a plot, plug in a few characters, and write a story if they just follow the easy steps found on an array of blog sites.
I’m guilty. I have a job and a son and bills to pay. When I have a rare day off, it’s difficult for me to break from the mindset of monotony to drown in a story. To sink into the waters with my eyes wide open to examine the story from every shimmering angle. And I am envious of the freedom The Beat’s found in France.
These thoughts come on the heels of my finishing Itsy’s Ugly last week. Somehow, in the details of a busy life, I allowed myself to drown and finish the story. It’s pretty good, I have to say, but needs so much more. I’m not sure when I’ll find the time. I’m not even sure, if I had the time, that I would have the energy. Thus, my longing for a tiny, run-down, French motel tucked among narrow streets of Paris surrounded by the inspired and eccentric. A world that no longer exists as capitalism reigns supreme and art no longer matters. I’m stuck here until my son perfects time travel, so I must make the best of it and try to find my own beat.