Guest post by Ardin Lalui, a writer inspired by Tom Waits and Cormac McCarthy.
While the beats have gained a reputation for spontaneous, free-flowing, unedited writing, the truth is that usually, good writing takes time and practice. The best beat writers were well aware of this. Here are 5 of their tips on how good writing happens:
1. Only write what you feel a passion for.
If your story or chapter isn’t grabbing you, it sure isn’t grabbing me.
As Bukowski says in So you want to be a writer?:
“if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.”
2. Being passionate will make your writing better.
Related to the previous point but here for emphasis, if you feel deeply and powerfully about something, it will show through in your writing. Passion should make your writing better, and should make the writing process easier.
you feel will
find its own
3. Observe your subjects with honesty and openness.
Writing, like photography and painting and all art, is an exercise in observation. Be as honest as you can in what you see. Don’t piss on your reader and call it rain. Tell it like it is, like how you saw it.
“Submissive to everything,
Photo: Tom Palumbo
4. Write what you know.
Classic writing advice, and the beats followed it too.
HS Thompson, in an Associated Press Interview in 2003:
“Fiction is based on reality unless you’re a fairy-tale artist, you have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you’re writing about before you alter it.”
5. Everything, everything, is in the detail.
There are no shortcuts. Whether your writing a Haiku or a thousand-page epic, every word of every line counts. It might not be immediately apparent, but looking closer, it’s clear that Bukowski gave thought to every single line he ever published.
Bukowski, quoted in the
“The secret is in the line.”
These quotes are good reminders that, as with all other writers, the writers we admire most worked hard at perfecting their craft. Knowing that they did makes me feel better about the time I put into my writing, and drives me to work harder at getting my writing where I want it to be.