Recently I was introduced to a gorgeous poem by the late Charles Bukowski called “so you want to be a writer?”
Here’s a small exert:
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.
It’s beautiful, right? Inspiring, powerful—something you would want to make a wall decal out of to impress your friends at dinner parties.
It’s also very, very, very, very, very, very wrong.
In fact, it’s difficult to recall anything that I’ve read that has been so astronomically wrong about writing.
Don’t misunderstand me, when he’s talking about writing for fame and fortune and sex he’s totally on the mark. Precious few writers reach the level of world-wide recognition and if you only want to write for accolades then you clearly don’t have what it takes to succeed in this craft. However, he also says–
“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.
Uhhhh….I don’t know a single solitary person, good writer or bad, who does not struggle with sitting down and writing.
I also do not know a single solitary person who has never had to suffer through a rewrite.
You know, because first drafts are dumpster fires of confusion and poor grammar.
For those of you who are fans of Charles Bukowski , did he not rewrite any of his poetry? My education on the man is lacking so that’s entirely possible. Nevertheless, if it’s true that he didn’t then he is an anomaly.
His poem goes on to say that a person should wait until the fires of passion are so hot they have no choice but to let them out before writing something.
“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.”
I have had moments where the desire to write something was so powerful that I felt like the story was literally trying to push its way out of me, but I’ll be the first to admit that these moments are few and far between.
If you wait until you feel as if you physically have no choice but to write something, odds are you will never finish anything.
The Inspiration Fairy is a very fickle creature and will oftentimes screw off at random, leaving you with no will to go on.
My favorite quote about inspiration goes as follows “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
Courting inspiration is a lot like trying to find a significant other. You can’t just sit around and wait for someone to notice you.
I have found that the best way to attract inspiration is to have a set amount of time each day to write. Believe it or not, the more you write the more inspiration is likely to show up. There have been months where I have struggled to produce anything; however, once I made the decision to write for at least an hour every day, writing started to become less of a drag.
I found myself feeling more and more motivated and my writing began to suck a little bit less.
Better yet I actually started to finish things I started.
Did that mean I never struggle? Hell no. I’m struggling right now, to be honest. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.
Same goes for you.
Struggling isn’t a sign you should quit, it’s simply a byproduct of trying.
And if you aren’t interested in trying then, and only then, would I say–
Don’t do it.