So You Want to Be a Writer?: Charles Bukowski Explains the Dos & Don’ts

Here’s a quick video that serves as an addendum to last week’s post, “Don’t Try”: Charles Bukowski’s Concise Philosophy of Art and Life. As you’ll recall, Bukowski’s headstone is engraved with the simple saying, “Don’t Try,” and, if you look back at his letters, the cryptic expression could be interpreted in any number of ways. (See our summary.) But, thanks to Andrew Sullivan, we can take another good whack at making sense of Bukowski’s immortal words. Released in a posthumously published collection in 2003, the Bukowski poem  “So You Want to be a Writer?” (above) warns the reader:

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.

Later, the poem continues:

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.

So here’s another way to interpret, “Don’t try.” Either you’ve got it, or you don’t. And you’ll know it if you do.

The video above comes from the Spoken Verses YouTube collection. Tom O’Bedlam always does a nice job with the readings. In this case, I’m not so sure about the visual selections in the clip. But it’s not a perfect world.

Related Content:

“Don’t Try”: Charles Bukowski’s Concise Philosophy of Art and Life

Charles Bukowski: Depression and Three Days in Bed Can Restore Your Creative Juices (NSFW)

Tom Waits Reads Charles Bukowski

The Last Faxed Poem of Charles Bukowski



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  • zemira

    I want to be a writer and a poet.. But I can’t find the suitable words to describe my feelings. Please help me

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