So you want to be a writer?

September 23, 2013

Charles Bukowski.  Image from Wikimedia.

When I was a teenager, Charles Bukowski was one of my favorite writers.  Except for my closeted boy-craziness, I was a straight-edged kid; the vulgarity, elegance, and worldliness of Bukowski's writing appealed to me because it expressed ideas that were so far out of my ken he might as well have been Tolkien.  Nonetheless, his world was one I wanted to know, and his loneliness felt like my own.

I stumbled across his poem "so you want to be a writer?" this weekend, and it reminded me of how much I love him.  Here are a few lines.

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.

Bukowski makes me feel like a hack.  But I'm going to keep writing.  Because one of my favorite things to do is to "celebrate the stupidity of [my] endurance," as expressed in another of his poems, "A Not So Good Night in the San Pedro of the World":

I have no idea of what would be of
interest to you
but I doubt that you would be of
interest to me, so don’t get
in fact, come to think of it, you can
kiss my ass.

I continue to listen to the piano.
this will not be a memorable night in my
or yours.

let us celebrate the stupidity of our

Here's Tom Waits reading Bukowski's poem "The laughing heart."  It is one of my favorite things on the vast Internet.

Click here for the video.

Thank you, you dirty old man. 

Image from

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