Monday, July 13, 2009

Jack Kerouac on Words and Writing

Inspired by Duane Swierczynski’s series Legends of the Underwood, I’ve decided to start my own collection of advice from the pros called On Words and Writing.

For the inaugural entry, I’m posting a poem by Jack Kerouac called “Credo” that was published in Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings (Penguin, 2000). All through high school I had this tacked on the wall behind my desk, right above my typewriter. There was something reassuring about knowing whenever I got stuck, all I had to do was look up, and it would be there. I left it back home in Maine when I moved to Brooklyn in 2005, but now I think it’s time to put it back up again. So, I thought I would share it with all of you all first. I hope it does as much for you as it has for me, all these years.


by Jack Kerouac

Remember above all things, Kid, that to write is not difficult, not painful, that it comes out of you with ease, that you can whip up a little tale in no time, that when you are sincere about it, that when you want to impress a truth, it is not difficult, not painful, but easy, graceful, full of smooth power, as if you were a writing machine with a store of literature that is boundless, enormous, endless, and rich. For it is true; this is so. Do not forget it in your gloomier moments. Make your stuff warm, drive it home American-wise, don't mind critics, don't mind the stuffy academic theses of scholars, they don't know what they're taking about, they're way of the track, they're cold; you're warm, you're red hot, you can write all day, you know what you know, like Halper; you remember that, Kid, and when you feel as if you cannot write, as if it is no use, as if life is no good, read this over and realize that you can do a lot of good in this world by turning out truths like these, by spreading warmth, by trying to preach living for life's sake, not the intellectual way, but the warm way, the way of love, the way which says: Brothers, I greet you with open arms, I accept your frailties, I offer you my frailties, let us gather and run the gamut of rich human existence. Remember, Kid, the ease, the grace, the glory, the greatness of your art; remember it, never forget. Remember passion. Do not forget, do not forsake, do not forget. It is there, the order and the purpose; there is chaos, but not in you, not way down deep in your heart, no chaos, only ease, grace, beauty, love, greatness.....Kid, you can whip up a little tale, a little truth, you can mop up the floor with a little tale in no time; it is a cinch, you are the flow of smooth thrumming power, you are a writer, and you can turn out some mean stuff, and you will turn out tons of it, because it is you, and do not forget it, Kid, do not forget it; please, please Kid, do not forget yourself; save that, save that, preserve yourself; turn out those mean little old tales by the dozens, it is easy, it is grace, do it American-wise, drive it home, sell truth, for it needs to be sold. Remember, Kid, what I say to you tonight; never forget it, read this over in your gloomier moments and never, never forget.....never, never, never forget.....please, please, Kid please…


  1. Good idea, Cullen. It will be interesting to see the different approaches/advice offered by various writers. Kerouac's certainly has a passionate, almost desperate feel to it. I look forward to future installments.

  2. There are a few from pulp writers coming up - next should be William Campbell Gault. His also has a mixture of desperation and perseverance.

  3. Sounds like an interesting project. As for Kerouac's advice, I don't think I get his point. but then I find that to usually be the case with him.

  4. Did you get to the fabulous exhibit on Kerouac at the NYPL last year? My husband just wrote an article on him. Also a new book on the baseball game he invented is just out.

  5. Well you got my full attention now Cullen, wanting it or not...smiles. Kerouac is someone I could read all day. There is something so seductive about his writngs. I have many of his books, but his poetry gets me. I love the fact that he screams emotions. To me without emotions no matter what genre you write just isn't worth reading.

    Nice post

  6. T - I've only read his poetry, though coming back to this poem makes me want to read his novels. I have On The Road on my shelf, so I think I'm going to give that one a shot. "Heaven and other poems" was one of my favorite books in high school.

    Patti - Sadly I missed that exhibit. Is the article your husband wrote online?

    Charles - For me the poem is just a reminder that we all have stories within us worth telling. Maybe it is a little obvious, but sometimes I need a little reminder like this one.

    Frank - Very desperate, I agree. But oddly enough, its desperation is somehow calming to me.


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