I sat on the grass with my yellow notebook. I looked and saw jack Kerouac coming to join me with a six-pack of beer.
‘Nice day,’ he said, grabbing a bottle and twisting the cap off.
He handed me a beer and I opened it. We drank.
The sun was shining, it was vivid, it was burning like it was putting effort in heating the planet.
I, too, had been putting some effort on my own to write.
But all that had yielded was a blank page.
So it had come to that time – that time when I felt I was no longer up for it, when I felt it crushing me, stomping me with its huge foot to the point of making me flinch.
Helpless I was, and hopeless. How the greats from the ancients to the romantics to the modern poets did it eluded me.
If writing was a marathon, I thought, then I was having trouble finishing it. I was stopping too often to catch my breath that I couldn’t keep up with it.
But here was jack, posing nonchalantly under a tree nearby, gulping his beer like a fresh glass of water. He sat and enjoyed the sun, the cool weather, the air, like nothing else mattered.
Everything in the world suddenly turned trivial to him, and obligations were suddenly erased: writing, creating, producing. It was just lying under the hot sun and drinking beer that seemed to have taken over his thoughts now.
‘How do you do it, Jack?’ I asked him after taking a big hit of beer.
‘How do I do what?’ he looked at me with the slightest effort, his eyes half-open and almost ready to close completely.
‘How do you write so successfully? How do you deliver the goods? How do you tackle great novels when most of the time you just sit around and drink?’
He finished his beer. It was his second. He placed the empty bottle down on its side and let it roll on the green grass.
‘Listen,’ he started, rising from his comfortable position, ‘there are no rules. There are no rules to writing, no time limit, no grace period, no schedule, no calendar. Writing is not something to plan or work at, it just is.’
‘But how do you get so much of it done? There comes a point where you’re at shortage of breath, low on ideas, lacking stamina, missing drive and determination to see it through.’
‘if you live a long and full life, you don’t have to worry about any of those things. If you experience things, feelings, people, events, new places – writing becomes the simple task of getting them down on paper. If you get involved in a bar brawl, a summer fling, an engagement, a long-term love affair; whether you live in a barn or in the big city; whether you’re innocent or completely mad, then by all means, write it down. Record it.’
Then he went over and grabbed his third beer, popped the cap off, and started drinking.
I sat there staring at him, processing his words. ‘And what if I don’t believe in any of those things? Feelings, love, madness, emotions – places and people? What if I am immune to them and to the world around me?’
He put both his hands on my shoulder: ‘then write it down. Write down your beliefs and disbeliefs, your sorrows and fears, your joys, your addictions, your illnesses.’
The words he spoke to me were beautiful, so beautiful I’d forgotten they were meant to act as advice for my work. They seemed poetic, artistic, melodic – like a rhapsody composed by one of the finest musicians, or a grandiose opera being played in one of the world’s greatest venues, or a majestic painting portrayed by one of the best artists.
They were much like the beer in my hand, soothing and reassuring, a calming presence to settle my troubled spirit.
Jack – or the great Jack as I called him – finished off his drink and rolled it on the grass just like he had done with the other two bottles. He gave me one hard look: ‘Well, I’ve got to head out. I’ll be seeing you kid.’
‘Thanks for the beer,’ I said, raising my bottle to him.
‘Remember, keep writing.’
And he went his way.
The sun was still strong, searing and almost burning through my skin. I was alone again, alone in the great big world. The only things that belonged to me were my notepad and the few remaining beers.
I stared down at my notepad lying on the grass beside me, I stared at it for a long time. Then I finished my beer, grabbed my notepad, and set out to see more of the world. More of the same maybe, more of others, more of myself. Just more.
And then I’d make sure to write it all down.