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
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.

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

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • zemira says:

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

  • Angelica says:

    I want to be a writer. I am writ­ing a sto­ry for chil­dren it’s a fan­ta­sy I got up to 4 pages but I read it and I end up chang­ing it to anoth­er sto­ry I don’t think writ­ers do that much mis­takes do they?

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.