Why I Write


Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 7:53:45 PM
By: Catherine Olaso

The forces that compel every writer to write are as vast and complex as the universe.  Let’s face it, writers write for myriad reasons. 

After reading Charles Bukowski’s poem, “So you want to be a Writer,” I couldn’t help but take inventory of my own motivations.  Had I succumbed to shallowness?  Pride?  Delusion?  Were the sporadic hours I spent today tapping away on my laptop little more than a frivolous, self-indulgent waste of time?

This line in Bukowski’s work tells me differently:  “Unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it.”

That’s it.  That’s me.  I can’t be ‘still’.  The results wouldn’t be pretty.  Okay, maybe the suicide or murder part is a bit extreme, but madness – oh, that’s real.  But that isn’t my point.  

It’s more the part about, ‘being still’, because along with that comes another line from Bukowski – “If it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it.”  

For me this is the source of truth; the catalyst to every beginning that I write.  I couldn’t ‘be still’ if I wanted to.  But Bukowski doesn’t veil his warning, emphasizing that writing is far from opulent or glamorous, and often boils down to one certainty – brutal.  This I know well.

Yet despite it all, I continue to write in the unseen hours of the morning or evening, centered in the knowledge that my words need not seek the approval of others.  I must let my compulsion take its course – trust the gift engraved deep upon my soul.  And, as Mr. Bukowski’s unreserved poem suggests, that is good enough.

So You Want to Be a Writer
By Charles Bukowski

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.