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POEM OF THE DAY -- So You Want to Be A Writer" by Charles Bukowski

So You Want to Be A Writer

By Charles 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
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.
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
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
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-
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 it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.


  1. So true, so true. And yet. There have been many great writers who have had to wait a little while before the burst, the gush, of words. Each time.

    And polishing the story--again and again--does not really mean one should put down the pen and find something else to do.

    I suspect that the ones who never polished are the very same pretentious ones whose works are found in the yawning libraries.

  2. Marisa, you pretty much said exactly what I was thinking.

    I also think that most people who write or call themselves writers DO have that bursting feeling, it's just that what they do with it might be different.

    I mean, let's be real. If someone wants money or fame, there are easier ways to get it, especially money. There are lots of high-paying jobs with concrete career tracks that don't involve zillions of rejection letters, and years of perseverance and a constant uncertainty about when you'll be published next. Writing is not exactly a stable, steady career path for most people.

    That's not to say there aren't a lot of pretentious, self-important people out there who write, or people who call themselves writer to fit into some social niche or feed that self-importance, or to try to get laid, or whatever. I guess I'm just saying that I think a large percent of writers feel that sun inside, burning in their guts or they wouldn't do it.

    But again how that burning gets channeled is a different story.

  3. I agree it's a passion and calling. If the words aren't calling you then it will be that much more difficult.

    If you're a writer, an honest to goodness "have to write or you'll go insane" writer, then you have no choice. If not, call it a hobby, and then find something that speaks to you and go do it.

  4. Absolutely!! What a great find! This is brilliantly worded to capture the essence of what makes a GREAT writer. It must come from the e-PIT-ome of you. It must be something that you can't live without…only then does writing become transcendent! Writing that doesn't well from the heart lacks an essential passion. Wow…how insightful and enlightening this piece!