On Writing: Don’t do it…unless…

I have no doubt that I am not alone in feeling that life in general seems to be getting more frantic, busier, louder and peppered with more stress than ever before. For those of us choosing to write, that quiet, creative time alone can literally become an elusive dream that reaches far off into next week, next month, and probably beyond.

So are you getting on with it?

And if you are finding a way to keep on top of it all,  how do you decide which projects to give your precious writing time to? Are you having trouble with that?

If so, check out this poem from Charles Bukowski — it’s definitely helping me to see the wood for the trees right now. Perhaps, it may even help me to make some crucial, life-changing career decisions in the not too distant future.

That’s the wonderful thing about good advice — there is no need to reinvent the wheel — just learn from the masters who’ve gone before, and heed the seasoned [and in this case, well-seasoned!] advice.

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.

Poem sourced from : http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16549

Sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way by Charles Bukowski. Copyright © 2003 by the Estate of Charles Bukowski. All Rights Reserved.

7 thoughts on “On Writing: Don’t do it…unless…

  1. Dee Sewell says:

    One of the most helpful posts I’ve read in a long while, thank you for sharing 🙂


  2. Dee sewell says:

    One of the most helpful posts I’ve read in a long time, thank you for sharing 🙂


  3. Lindsay says:

    Interesting poem but not sure I agree — if I didn’t buckle myself down, I’d get very little finished. Lots started but sometimes the inspiration comes after you’ve written the stuff you don’t want to write or that comes out poorly — sometimes you do have to make yourself write and write and write and only then comes the magic!


    • Good point, Lindsay and very valid. The poem resonates with me on many levels though, as I really do need to be more selective about the projects I take on…time and energy are way too precious, but once I am in love with a story, it is all about getting the head down to write, write, write!


      • Lindsay says:

        Which is why your work is so strong, methinks. I am also guilty of working on too many projects at once but I suspect that’s my nature. And it does keep life exciting, except on those days when you feel utterly bogged down.x


  4. Brilliant poem, never saw it before…..I find myself at both ends of the spectrum at once……Thinking, thank goodness I have a day job and also I wish I didn’t have a day job and a million other things to do……thanks for that.


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