Copywriting Tips From Jack Kerouac

There are hundreds of millions of posts made online every day – blogs, tweets, Facebook and Intagram posts. We are drowning in a sea of content.

Most of that content goes largely unseen.

That’s particularly true for corporate content. When you are competing with everything on the Internet – the outrageous thing Trump just said or funny cat videos – your content really needs to resonate with your audience.

Good copywriting makes a huge difference.

But what is good copywriting? What makes your content really sing?

Let’s take a page from Jack Kerouac, patron saint of the “Beat” writers of the 1950s and author of the classic “On The Road,” among others.

Legend says Kerouac wrote On The Road in only three weeks, fuelled, perhaps, by some illegal substances. He created a new, more open style of literature that echoes in writing today.

Kerouac penned the “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose” in 1957. It offers nine tips that are useful to anyone creating content for inbound marketing programs.

Let’s take a look at a few of them:

What Kerouac Wrote:

“PROCEDURE: Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.”

What It Means For You:

Get the words down. Ponder what you want to write about then write it quickly. Let your subconscious contribute to the piece. Don’t overthink the writing.

What Kerouac Wrote:

“METHOD: No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)– “measured pauses which are the essentials of our speech”– “divisions of the sounds we hear”- “time and how to note it down.” (William Carlos Williams)”

What It Means For You:

Don’t get bogged down in superfluous punctuation like the Oxford comma. Write cleanly and clearly. Make good use of the “em dash” – it can take the place of place of commas, parentheses, or colons without impeding the reader’s flow.

What Kerouac Wrote:

“CENTER OF INTEREST: Begin not from preconceived idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion-Do not afterthink except for poetic or P. S. reasons. Never afterthink to “improve” or defray impressions, as, the best writing is always the most painful personal wrung-out tossed from cradle warm protective mind-tap from yourself the song of yourself, blow!-now!-your way is your only way- “good”-or “bad”-always honest (“ludicrous”), spontaneous, “confessionals’ interesting, because not “crafted.” Craft is craft.”

What It Means To You:

Find your hook. What is the single most important thing you are trying to say? That’s what you should build your post around.

What Kerouac Wrote:

“STRUCTURE OF WORK: Modern bizarre structures (science fiction, etc.) arise from language being dead, “different” themes give illusion of “new” life. Follow roughly outlines in outfanning movement over subject, as river rock, so mindflow over jewel-center need (run your mind over it, once) arriving at pivot, where what was dim-formed “beginning” becomes sharp-necessitating “ending” and language shortens in race to wire of time-race of work, following laws of Deep Form, to conclusion, last words, last trickle-Night is The End.”

What It Means For You:

Umm, yeah…I’m not really sure about this one…

Yes, Kerouac represents a moment in time and culture. But his approach to writing makes sense for anyone producing content today. Write quickly, cleanly and with purpose.

Your readers will thank you.

Allan Gates

Allan Gates is a partner with Bonfire.