Hey, guys. I recently attended my American Lit post-1865 class where we studied Jack Kerouac and his opinions on writing. Oddly enough, the student who did the research told us Mr. K wasn’t considered a great literary figure. He was relegated more towards the realm of inspiring (or insipid, take your pick) literature aimed at or appealing to late teens/early twenties wandering types. The presenter brought up the fact that at that age in a person’s life (and mostly male persons), they’re more likely to read On the Road and be affected by it. It seems the youth need their lost time, which I believe is true.
Anyway, getting back to Mr. K’s opinions on writing: he believed in a jazzy, improvisational style of writing that, once written, should not be revised or edited in any way. He believed in the purity of the moment and the sanctity of preserving that moment. When I first started writing I believed that too. Nowadays, of course I revise and edit my stuff. But I can remember when I believed too in the holiness, the purity, the sanctity of a moment, and how I thought it was my duty to preserve that moment forever.
My ideas have obviously shifted since then, but I bring up On the Road and Mr. K’s ideas on writing to extrapolate a connection between the two. Is off-the-cuff, improvisational writing actually a sacred element of a lost moment that won’t be found again? And if so, should it be interfered with? Or do moments exist always and belong to us forever already, and as such, are ours to manipulate and arrange however we’d like? Of course there’s also the factor of doing justice to the voice of a work, which I believe dictates whatever future action may be.
How about you guys? Did you ever – or do you still – have the attitude that you can’t edit your writing for fear of destroying it or losing its essence? Also, is this ideology something that afflicts beginners more than experienced writers?
Christopher Savage is a writer living in Austin. He writes poetry, short stories, non-fiction, film scripts, comic books, and one long novel, among other things. He is the founder of the Boho Coco literary zine and blog and is currently attending UT Austin as a Sociology major, English minor. He is survived by his cat Cashew.
7 Comments to “Edit Yourself”
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- Whenever I reread a book I have to pretend that the idiotic marginalia is in someone else's handwriting.