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Around two years ago, I watched a documentary about Hunter S. Thompson, a documentary that I have recently re-visited called “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson“. And I’d like to say that if you don’t know who he is, you should. Watch the documentary.
In this particular documentary, around 11:55, Thompson’s biographer, Douglas Brinkley, said, “The Great Gatsby is how Hunter learned to write. He would type the Great Gatsby over and over again just to learn the music of Fitzgerald.”
Whether or not it was actually how he learned to write is disputable, however, I was intrigued. I thought that it was the kind of idea that turns writers into legends.
Since then, it has been a goal of mine to re-write a book, more specifically “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac.
I don’t think that it is going to magically make me a better writer (as I’m sure it didn’t with him), but the idea of writing a story, word for word, just as an admirable author did, seems almost romantic to me.
I’m not saying that you should do this, just merely letting you in on the idea.
Paul Jun’s article, “What Hunter S. Thompson Can Teach You About Powerful Writing“, also mentions Thompson doing this. It has some other interesting facts, ideas and suggestions too.
I decided to take action on this idea, and this is my experience…so far.
I wanted it to feel authentic, so I waited until I could get a typewriter. I began to type…”I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road.”
I continued on for about twenty pages, and never touched it again.
I started again, about two weeks ago. I had some time to kill, so I began again, from the beginning. Mind you, I’ve had the typewriter which was made in the seventy’s for about a year now, and I’ve never changed the ribbon. It was exhausting. I had to keep flipping the torn ribbon and skipping the holes that had been created from the metal letters furiously pounding on it for an unknown number of years. At one point, about five pages in, I even hand rolled the ribbon from one spool to the other. It was tedious, but I kept going and made it further in the book than I had the first time. With little ribbon left and too broke to buy more, if I could even find more, I stopped writing again.
I still need/want to finish the book, but I think I’ll use a computer to type it instead.