Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) was the author most famous for his novel On the Road and as a pioneer for the Beat Generation of the 1950s.
Here are four of his wonderful quotes to help inspire your writing!
1. Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.
I see quotes similar to this from bestselling and acclaimed writers all the time, and it’s something you absolutely need to pay attention to. One of the things I did all the time in my early years of writing novels was stick to trends. I wanted to write what was popular, not necessarily what was interesting or exciting to me. I didn’t want to waste time on a project for a year or longer that no literary agent or editor would be interested in. I thought it was in my best interest to write something that yielded to trends and fads.
But the crazy thing about the world of writing is that even if you think nobody will ever care about that strange and specific story you’re working on, if you love it, if you believe in it, if you turn it into something creatively daring and original, people will respond to it, I’m telling you. The minute you write something to fit inside a trend or fad going on right now, your work is as good as dead. People will be able to see through it. And that trend two or three years from now will no longer be a trend, anyway.
So go with the genre, the characters, the story, that you adore with your whole heart, and forget about all the rest.
2. The best teacher is experience.
Something I tell writers all the time is that to be a great writer you really do need to write every day, or at least five days a week. Because Kerouac was right, and so was my dad, too, frankly, when they both told me the best teacher is always experience. It’s not sitting in classes for weeks on end learning about writing. It’s not reading twenty craft books. It’s not even immersing yourself in reading tons of fiction, although reading does help you as a writer.
Reading only truly helps your writing when you’re actually doing some writing, too. Read to get inspired, and then write. It doesn’t have to be four hours of writing. It doesn’t have to be 15,000 words a month. (Yes, if you don’t reach 15,000 words a month, you are still a writer, I promise!) It can be ten or twenty minutes a day if you want. It can be a few really good sentences you put down on the page.
The truth is if you experience the act of writing day after day, month after month, year after year, you will get better, and eventually you’ll be ready to show the world what you’re capable of.
3. One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
This quote makes me smile. How often do we sit down at the computer and struggle to make a scene come to life no matter how hard we try? I’m currently hard at work on a new short story, and there’s one scene I’ve had imagined in my head for about six months now. But no matter what words I choose, the scene for whatever reason isn’t coming to life the way I wanted it to.
And a big reason for that is not that I haven’t found the right words but likely that the words aren’t simple enough. I’ve tried to dress up this scene more than once with fancy words, beautiful language, lots of description and style I hope will dazzle the reader. I realized recently I’m just trying too damn hard. And all that trying is actually bringing the scene down a notch, not raising it up where it needs to be.
Sometimes the best plan of action when it comes to your writing is using the right, simple words to present a scene to your reader. Sometimes simplicity is truly the best course of action.
4. Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.
Jack Kerouac liked to live his short life to the fullest, and the same should be said for anyone who’s looking to be a writer. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: your writing will never pop off the page if you don’t step away from the computer and office and live your life a little. You don’t have to skydive or swim with sharks or spend a month driving around the country, but you should at least once a week go on some kind of adventure and do something that scares you to get some needed inspiration for your writing.
In the last year I’ve written three new short stories, and all of them have been in part based on experiences I had in my own life. They all stemmed from “what if” questions I posed to myself while the event was happening. You know what never stems from anything? Sitting at your computer desk all day writing your heart out. Sure, you’ll get a lot of words down on the page, and that’s great. But you can’t only write. You need to experience new things, too.
So if the past few months have all sort of felt like the same day repeated over and over, you know it’s time to be a bit more spontaneous in your life. Drive somewhere new this weekend. Try something you’ve been meaning to try. Doing so will bring you lots of wonderful new ideas, as well as great success in the months and years to come!
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