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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bukowski on writing

I came across this poem by Charles Bukowski which expresses something important about integrity in writing. I wouldn't take it literally as good advice about how to write a scientific book, but there is something about the spirit of the thing that is relevant for aspiring academics. I see too many doctoral students in my discipline who don't really have anything they passionately want to know who then wonder why they struggle to write something that anyone else cares about. If you don't know what you want to know or someone else has to tell you, don't do it. If all you want is 'DPhil (Oxon)' after your name, don't do it...

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
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.


emily said...

this kind of blog always useful for blog readers, it helps people during research. your post is one of the same for blog readers.

Masters Thesis Writing

Mary said...

Thanks, Colin.

Jaime Puente said...

This is one of my favorite poems by Bukowski. I think of it every time I sit to write a blog or write an academic essay. It rings true to both.

Anant s .Dhavale said...

Great blog, and a good poem indeed. Bukowski has also commented about creating little- despite of writing thousands of poems in one of his works.