So You Want To Be A Writer? By Charles Bukowski

So You Want To Be A Writer? By Charles Bukowski

Writers Write shares resources for writers. This post includes a poem from Charles Bukowski on wanting to be a writer.

There is so much that steals time from a writer. Work, family, friends, life. They are all important and it is easy to say I’ll write tonight, tomorrow or this weekend. Then when I finally sit down to write there are days when I am overwhelmed and daunted by the blank page. I question my career choice. I doubt my passion.

And then I found this poem:

so you want to be a writer? by Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski, born 16 August 1920, died 9 March 1994, was an American poet, novelist and short story writer.

So You Want To Be A Writer? By Charles Bukowski


if it doesn’t come bursting out
of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of
heart and your mind and your
and your gut,
don’t do it.
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
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
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to
roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of
do something else.
if you first have to read it to
your wife
or your girlfriend or your
or your parents or to anybody at
you’re not ready.
don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands
people who call themselves
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
until you die or it dies in you.
there is no other way.
and there never was.

Depressing, right? Well, no. It works like reverse psychology.

Every time I read “Don’t do it”, everything in my soul cries out “screw you”. I do not write under the perfect circumstances. Sometimes the writing flows, sometimes it doesn’t. I have difficult days and I have brilliant days, but I know I want to do this. I want the struggle. I want the blank page. I want the blinking cursor. I want to write.

No one will tell me how to do it or what it should be like. It works for me. I am learning. I am growing. I don’t have a tea-toting wife who brings me sarmies between scenes. I fight for every minute I spend writing. But I will keep fighting. I will keep writing until it is ‘truly time’. I will do it.

So screw you, Charles. Stephen King said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Or I can go all Nike on you and say, “Just do it.”

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course.

 by Mia Botha

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If you want to develop a writing habit, try our free online Hooked On Writing course.

Posted on: 1st July 2015