The Kerouac commandments

Kerouac’s rules for writing

There is a website called, which posts all kinds of interesting things: book recommendations, repostings, quotations.

Sometimes they recopy the advice of great writers. Usually, sadly, the advice is crap.

The following is a list the Beat author Jack Kerouac (supposedly) wrote and tacked to the wall of Allen Ginsberg’s hotel room in 1954, a year before Ginsburg’s most famous poem, “Howl,” was published.

Take this list for what it’s worth. I think, for a change, it has a few worthwhile items on it.



  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
  26. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  27. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  28. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  29. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  30. You’re a Genius all the time
  31. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

For me – stupid aging me – “Accept loss forever” and “Like Proust be an old teahead of time” are the two most immediate dicta here.

Also #25, which is a blank. I choose to believe it means: “Insert your own truism here.”

Although I am crazy about “You’re a Genius all the time.”

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

3 Responses to The Kerouac commandments

  1. Accept loss forever really spoke to me.

  2. starproms says:

    Lots of good advice there Loren.

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