Writing the Windblown, Schizophrenic World

I came across this fascinating book called Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 — which covers the period of time when he wrote his first novel The Town and the City and his second On the Road.

Basically, it’s a log of his word counts, which are insanely high (but we talked before about how much he writes) and his emotions as he writes. Check this out:

This thought, concerning the change in my writing which now seems so important, came –: that it was not lack of creation that stopped me before, but an excess of it, a thickening of the narrative stream so that it could not flow. Yet tonight I’m really worried about my work. First is it good now? — and will the world recognize it as such. The world isn’t so dumb after all; I realize that from reading some of my unfinished or unsold novels: they are just no good. I will eventually arrive at a simplicity and a beauty that won’t be denied — simplicity; morality; and a beauty, a real lyricism. But the now, the now. It’s getting serious. How do I know if I’m reaching mastery?“~Kerouac, entry dated November 10

I know, right? If he writes this way in his journal, obsessing about the beauty of words and worrying about mastery…well, he was probably gonna accomplish something, right? There are pages of this stuff in this book. Kerouac goes through the writerly schizophrenia that’s in all of us writers.

But you suck

I think the fear comes, no matter how hard we work, because we wonder if we’re good enough, if anyone will ever notice, and whether the work is worth noticing at all. Self-doubt is an obstacle we all have to overcome. Even Kerouac.

(Or maybe that’s just my fear and you guys are all fine and dandy.)

The answer is the same regardless of whether you’re fearful or not: write and find out what happens.

Right now, my only answer to “how do I know if I’m reaching mastery?” is: I finished this blog post. I’ve finished a play. I’ve finished three novels. All of that work teaches me something.

Jack Kerouac Mentors Psychological States self-doubt Writing

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. YES! I think anybody who’s any good at writing or artful stuff constantly has this going on. Creative work is not objective. It is our feelings and our hearts stuck out into the world for people to take a look at. Since that’s the case, how the hell are we supposed to know its any good unless people tell us? I will admit that sometimes I write something and say “Well damn! Isn’t this just great?” Maybe no one in the world will have that same opinion, but I can be happy in the simple joy of writing and digging my own stuff. I’ve also had a story or poem rejected so many times that I do question its worth. Maybe there’s too many bad words? I’m not sure.

    As a reviewer, I often hit this problem. What to say about flaws I see in the book? Do I say anything? Is it better to lie and say it’s fantastic when I hate it? The arts are subjective and that can be hard. Kerouac’s output of writing is amazing. Especially because the majority of it is in longhand, and there are journals and all the letters you spoke of a while back, too. I will have to check out “Windblown World” sounds great! I think that’s why many writers identify w Kerouac. He’s just like us! Agonizing over his work, trying to live a life true to himself, yet desperately wanting to enjoy the thrills of forbidden drugs and sex. It’s the moral struggle.

    For the record, I really enjoy your writing and between the novels and plays, you must be doing something right!

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