So you want to be a writer? Charles Bukowski - 1920-1994
Updated: Mar 21, 2021
So you want to be a writer?
Charles Bukowski - 1920-1994
if it doesn't come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don't do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don't do it. if you're doing it for money or fame, don't do it. if you're doing it because you want women in your bed, don't do it. if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don't do it. if it's hard work just thinking about doing it, don't do it. if you're trying to write like somebody else, forget about it. if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently. if it never does roar out of you, do something else. if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you're not ready. don't be like so many writers, don't be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don't be dull and boring and pretentious, don't be consumed with self-love. the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind. don't add to that. don't do it. unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don't do it. unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don't do it. when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. and there never was.
It's a tad controversial. His words incite too much emotion for those who empathize with what Charles himself was going through. Regardless of the meaning you acquiesce from it, it stirs you.
When I read this poem, I lose myself in the turbulence of what all writers, all creatives, go through. To create is not for the weak of heart. You will suffer. At times there may be a giddy high of release and catharsis but the fear of failure, of not achieving, of not being good enough will always walk with you on this journey. And that's what it is, a journey, a never-ending story. When you take up the mantle of artist you devote yourself to an eternity of striving for better, better yet, perfection. You are giving yourself over the impossibility of supremacy, to the dream of transcending to the levels of such works that survive infinitely in the souls of those who absorb your work.
It is impossible and heartbreaking, but it is not a choice. When you choose to create, it is because it chose you. To deny it is a fate much worse.
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