Posts Tagged ‘Charles Bukowski’

So you want to be a writer?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Since I’m on a mini-roll here, I figured I’d just stay with the same topic one more day.

That stated, do you know this poem?

Pondering the deep questions of life, like what's for lunch.

It’s been on my bathroom mirror for the last eight months, and I can attest that its message is absolute truth.

There’s maybe a little planning and organization that could go into the process that he doesn’t mention, but mostly he’s dead on: The words just come…or they don’t.

Any attempt to force them will sound that way and feel that way and you’ll end up deleting them anyway. It’s as implausible as it is true.

So You Want To Be A Writer

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


searching for words,

don’t do it.

if you’re doing it for money or


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


forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of


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-


the libraries of the world have

yawned themselves to


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.

–Charles Bukowski

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Don’t Try

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

So according to Wikipedia and abbreviated for your reading pleasure, Charles Bukowski’s gravestone reads: “Don’t Try”, a phrase which Bukowski uses in one of his poems, advising aspiring writers and poets about inspiration and creativity. Bukowski explains the phrase as follows:

Somebody asked me: “What do you do? How do you write, create?” You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.

Amen, brother.

I totally get that.

This blog is even like that. If I have nothing, I have nothing. And if I have something, it’s usually worth an hour of my time to write and ten minutes of your time to read. And if it’s not, then I don’t bother.

In the same way, as of late I’ve been on the receiving end of some well-intentioned cheerleading with the general refrain of”write your agent queries already!”

And I don’t disagree with the sentiment or the need for cash flow, but if I know one thing about myself, it’s that genius comes when it comes.

And when it shows up, you’d better have some paper and a pen handy, because it doesn’t hang out long.

One of the images you get when you type 'Don't Try' into Google and select 'Images.' I'm feeling it.

Here’s the deal: I have two paragraphs (think of the inner flap of a hardcover or the back page of a paperback) which which to bowl someone over and make them want to read my entire book, and it’s going to have to be brilliantly inspired prose to work. And brilliantly inspired prose of such focused brevity and import cannot be forced. It just comes when it’s ready.

Kind of like manna from heaven, it just falls into your brain ready to rumble.

So until then, I sit and wait and work on other stuff and massage the plot for the next book and hope that I’ll see my muse floating in through the window sometime soon. Paper and pen are on deck when she gets here.

It won’t be too long now.

I could’ve sworn I caught a glimpse of her the other day.

So cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal. –William S. Burroughs

Or, to quote literary agent Janet Reid, whose blog I’ve been reading for the last week or so:

I don’t want you to be grateful I read your queries. It’s my job, and it’s in my best interest. I NEED good queries to make a living. Fuck grateful; write better queries.

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