Jack London on Good Health & Sincerity

If you wanted to get published, Jack London had five pages of advice for you.

It was advice “painfully acquired.” Mr. London had started off at rock-bottom. He knew nothing about writing, knew no one who wrote, had no one’s experience to benefit from. “So, I sat down and wrote to get an experience of my own.”

And from that experience, packed with rejection, discouragement, and plain old not quitting, he extracted a few key insights that he put to page for The Editor in 1903.

“Keep a notebook,” he wrote in an essay now archived at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center. “Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters into your brain.”

A writer’s health, too, was imperative: “See that your pores are open and your digestion is good.”

And curiosity was essential: “Find out about this earth; this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to the Godhead. And by all this, I mean work for a philosophy of life.”

He summed it all up in three capitalized categories: GOOD HEALTH, WORK, a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE.

And that was close to, but not everything you needed to get published. So, he ended with one final category.

“SINCERITY,” he wrote in all capitals.

“Without this, the other three are without avail. With it, you may cleave to greatness and sit among the giants.”

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