Have you tried to quit writing?
Novelist and poet of the American lowlife, Charles Bukowski, thinks you should. But what the hell does he know?
Bukowski’s poem “So You Want to Be a Writer?” tickles my rebellious streak. And thank goodness my rebellious streak is stronger than my perfectionistic fear of failing. Because nothing gets me writing like Charles Bukowski.
Press play below to hear Tom O’Bedlam from Spoken Verse read Bukowski’s “So You Want to Be a Writer?” in his deep and delicious voice. Then tell me if you feel this too.
This poem gets me writing, not because I’m in love with Bukowski’s work (I can’t always relate to it), but because it reminds me why I love to write.
Maybe he wrote this poem to dispel the myth of the tortured artist.
I say, who cares?
Because what this poem really does is makes me want to prove Bukowski wrong. It makes me want to write.
Who the hell does he think he is, telling me when and how to write? I’ll tell you what, Charles…
I’ll write even if I do have to sit for hours staring at my computer screen.
I’ll write even when it doesn’t come bursting out of me. I’ll write for money. I’ll write for fame. And even if money and fame never come, I’ll write.
I’ll write, searching for words. I’ll write for women in my bed. Even though I prefer men. And I’m married. And I don’t want women in my bed. I’ll write anyway. Because I like it. The writing. Because I want to. Because I’d do it anyway. Because writing is the only thing that doesn’t feel like time wasted.
I’ll write waiting patiently. And I’ll write when it’s hard work just thinking about doing it. Because it is hard work. And only an idiot doesn’t anticipate the stress.
I’ll write and then share it with my husband and my mother. I don’t care if that means I’m not ready.
And if you find me or my work dull and boring and pretentious, Charles, I invite you to eat me.
Even when writing doesn’t fill me with the sun or burn my gut, I’ll be writing.
Because I won’t wait to be chosen. I won’t wait for “it is truly time.” I will dog, and drill, and drag and beat those words into submission.
Because I am a writer. I’m a writer because I write. So stick that in your joint and smoke it, Charles. And, Charles?
Thanks for making me write.
What about you? Will you follow Bukowski’s advice and quit? If you try to quit writing and can’t, then you’re a writer.
It’s the best way—the Charles Bukowski way—to know if you’re a writer.