Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I think this poem is accurate

Shit! I thought I hated poetry.

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.

Are you trying to write to get girls? Are you copying other people? Are you ENTIRELY SELF-INVOLVED ? Guess what! You don't have a chaaaance.

(*I actually disagree with that last one because most all writers/musicians/artists are narcissistic egomaniacs. To some degree, you have to be.)

Anyway, Bukowski, way to go, you're probably right. I probably should take his word for it and quit now because lately I've fallen into the "forced" category. Furthermore, I don't write that much and I'm not that good at it.

Oh it's also hard/impossible to write what other people want to read. I think that very few writers have any sense of this or maybe they just don't care.

2 comments:

what_wit! said...

I thought I might leave a comment about this, since it hits pretty close to home.

This is an interesting poem with some accurate ideas, but I disagree with a lot of it. The idea of not writing unless it comes "bursting out of you" is accurate to a point. If you never have the impulse to write, then it's probably just not your thing. Most writers agree that they write because they HAVE to, if they don't, they feel that something is wrong. Both my mother and I can attest to that.

But there's a lot here that's discouraging, and I think you shouldn't take ol' Bukowski at his word. "If you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen... don't do it"

He's lying. Even the best writers of human history have points where they don't know what to say. Anyone who can constantly vomit words isn't worth reading, and to be honest, those people just don't exist. If Bukowski never sat in front of a blank page, well he's lying to you.

"If you're doing it because you want women in your bed" is accurate in spirit. Don't do it if that's your motive. But I thought I'd drop the nugget that the famous poet Lord Byron slept with everything that had a pulse, so... I guess it worked for him.

"If you're trying to write like somebody else..." We all have influences, we all have writers we love and consciously or unconsciously we write like. The key is to learn as we emulate and then evolve past them.

"If you first have to read it to your wife.... (etc.)" Bullshit. C.S. Lewis would come down in the evenings and read freshly written chapters of Narnia to his family. It's impossible and ill advised to go around showing publishers work that no one has read but you.

Don't be boring, he sure is right about that. But don't let his ideas discourage you.

I guess my big thing is this: his poem implies that great writing just leaps out of people, that they can't help but be the best writers ever, and if you have to try and work hard then you shouldn't be doing it. That's stupid. People who are skilled communicators do have a better time with writing, there is definitely a natural talent to it, but it is a craft like any other, sewing, blacksmithing, whatever. It's something you learn and study, you take your time with and you think about and work hard at it. Anyone who says different is lying, or oblivious to themselves and other writers.

samuelhgarfield said...

What? Buk definitely totally did it to get girls. What an old bastard / good-humored mensch.