Advice: So You Want to Be a Writer

http://poietes.wordpress.com

There are many reasons to become a writer or to desire that moniker. For some of us, it means self-expression and getting those words out of us that desperately want to escape in some way. But for others, it’s about money, and fame, and other reasons that are really not quite good enough to take up the mantle of writer. I got to thinking about this when, in my weekly digest email from Brainpickings, there was a poem from Charles Bukowski entitled, So You Want to Be a Writer

The poem is one that really makes you think. At the start of it, Bukowski lists all the reasons why you shouldn’t be a writer. He says if you’re doing it for this or if this happens to you, don’t be a writer. But as I read through the list I thought, surely most writers have done these things at one time or another. But perhaps they weren’t real writers? Perhaps Bukowski is writing about the pure writer, the ideal writer that we should all strive to be. That we should be confident in our work, write for the right reasons, and embrace the craft.

What really connected with me, though, is the second half of the poem where Bukowski says that writing will ‘choose’ you. And that when it does, it will not stop until you die. Here he seems to suggest that a talent or passion for writing is bestowed upon you, that when it is you can’t do anything about it, and that you can never lose that ability. And, indeed, that you won’t want to lose the ability because it will be amazing. He is, as Brainpickings says, positing that ‘contrary to the culturally toxic tortured-genius myth, to create is to celebrate rather than bemoan life.’

Read the poem for yourself and see what it says to you.

So You Want to Be a Writer, by Charles Bukowski

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
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.

Write for the right reasons, and it will always come out good.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Advertisements

One thought on “Advice: So You Want to Be a Writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s