Jack London’s Writer’s Philosophy

  Jack London's Beauty Ranch - Bruce Witzel photo

The Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept. (Jack London)

In the summer of 1897, Jack London, author of books such as Call of the Wild and White Fang set sail to join the Klondike Gold Rush. He would  develop scurvy and lose his front teeth in the harsh conditions, but the experience would also inspire him to write the first of his successful fiction. (Goodreads Quote of the Day for July 25, 2015)

Jack London's Writing Cottage - Guenette photo

Seeing Jack London highlighted on Goodreads a couple of days ago had me remembering our trip in 2010 to Jack London State Historic Park in Northern California. This park encompasses what London called, Beauty Ranch, and contains the cottage in which the author wrote.

Jack London's writing room - Bruce Witzel photo

Jack London's sleeping porch - Guenette photo

Jack London had a strong work ethic and writing philosophy. He saw his craft as a profitable chore. The products of his lively imagination were a means to an end.

“I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate.”

I found this quote disconcerting. It seemed such a calculated attitude to take towards the craft of writing. I couldn’t square London’s somewhat utilitarian attitude with my own memories of how his work had moved me. Call of the Wild broke my heart and not just as a youngster. I had the same tear-filled-eyes experience when reading it to students years later.

Jack London's clothes peg line of notes - Guenette photo (1)

Once again, I am reminded of Paul Ricoeur’s thoughts on interpretation as the realm of the reader. Whatever impetus brought Jack London to the act of writing matters not when it comes to how his work made me feel.

Andy Warhol said this well.

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide whether it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Jack London quote - Guenette photo

19 comments on “Jack London’s Writer’s Philosophy

  1. Behind the Story says:

    When we were getting ready to move to Vanuatu, I found Jack London’s “Tales of the South Pacific.” He’s well known for his stories of Alaska, so it was fun to read his tales from a warmer clime. He would have sailed around the world on the Snark, but his health problems caused him to turn around.

  2. focussolar says:

    I write for no other purpose than to open possibilities for living without transferring fossil carbon to the air we breathe. I would write every day @5AM for no other reason than to keep the climate we’re changing from killing so many species. I’ve not yet found a storyline that will introduce young adults to exciting venues that may challenge them to undertake ways of living that diminish impacts on the environment we share with species that support us.

  3. The Warhol quote really resonates with me, Fran. Ah…Call of the Wild…definitely a tearjerker for me too.

    • I like the fact that Warhol says don’t think about it – do it! Sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and get down to it. People will think what they will think.

  4. I love that quote. I remember reading Cry of the Wolf as a kid and never forgot it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Gallivanta says:

    That must have been a fascinating visit.

    • Yes, it was! On that same trip we went to Salinas and did a tour of the John Steinbeck Center – a must see, as well. I couldn’t help contrasting Steinbeck’s writer’s philosophy with London’s. Two such talented men who approached their work from very different angles.

  6. Nothing better than a Jack London tale about “the white silence” on those frigid winter days that will be here before we realize it. Love his work!

  7. Roy McCarthy says:

    I’m unfamiliar with London, but he was clearly a great writer and honest with it. I bet he didn’t give writing tips.

  8. Meredith says:

    You presented a beautiful man who will have his public take him a as he is.

  9. I was interested to learn more about Jack London as he was a friend of the Scottish artist George Leslie Hunter who at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century earned a precarious living in the city as an independent book and newspaper illustrator. He was to have a major exhibition in 1906 when the earthquake struck and all his works were destroyed, after which he returned to Scotland. But from what I can gather, he and London seem to have been close friends.

    • I am often amazed at the way the artistic worlds overlap – actors hanging out with writers, artists developing relationships with actors and authors. Unbelievably bad fortune to have all your work destroyed in an earthquake right before a major exhibition. There is a clear message in that – all we do is transitory. I cringe as I type those words.

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