So, you want to be a writer? Let's read some Bukowski.

Written by Cole Schafer


Charles Bukowski worked just about every goddamn job on the planet.

He worked at a dog biscuit factory. He worked at a slaughterhouse. He worked at a blood bank. He worked as a truck driver, a tomato picker, a gas station attendant and a subway poster hanger until, finally, ending up at The Post Office where he thought he would retire.

While these were his “jobs”, they were never his craft nor his vocation.

Writing was his vocation.

While I would never recommend that anyone aspire to be Charles Bukowski in their personal lives, all of us can learn a great deal from the fearless underground poet’s tenacity.

He didn’t “make it” until his late forties, after working countless jobs to support his drinking and his gambling and his philandering and, of course, his writing…

Here’s a poem he wrote on writing that I think all aspiring writers should read (and perhaps even memorize).

It goes something like this…

*Bukowski is typing now*

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.

By Cole Schafer (but mostly Charles Bukowski).