so you want to be a writer?

For Poetry Friday today, I am linking to a poem by Charles Bukowski that, when I first read it about eight years ago, forced me into as close to a meditative state as I think I’ve ever been in my adult life.

Here are a few lines and link to the poem, with a few more thoughts from me below.

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.

Click here to read the rest of this poem at


Click the link and read the full Bukowski poem before continuing.

So, this poem really got to me. I read it and re-read it and re-read it. I hand-typed it out of the book (sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way), printed it, cropped it down to a thin strip, and pasted it on my computer monitor. I wrote nothing. I just kept reading that poem again and again, and thinking.

Then I started reading through my poetry file. That was a bad idea initially. It was filled with half-witted ideas and half-assed drafts that suddenly seemed unrecognizable to me. But there were some nuggets of truth in that file, too. Buried alive beneath 60 pages of someone else’s forced rhymes, bad puns, and cutesy stories was … me.  The kindofnice-but-kindofanasshole me. The drippingwithsarcasm me. The almostcertainlydrunkwhenIwrotethis me. But even where I crossed the line into possible inappropriateness in terms of topic or language, I maintained a silliness that somehow still seemed to work for stuff intended for kids.

So that was it for me. I harvested what I could, moved the rest to a scrap file, and moved on with a new confidence that I was doing what I wanted to do in the way that I wanted to do it.

I still read that poem from time to time, but it no longer smarts the way it once did. And I’m no longer mad at Charles Bukowski, either, even though he is kindofanasshole.


Thanks to Karissa at The Iris Chronicles for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

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  • Tara

    Bukowski (“kindofanasshole” though he was) has that power to stop you in your tracks – especially at certain times in your life. My son had “Bluebird” literally trapped in his mind for months as he was finding his way through a rough patch – and the thinking of the poem, writing music to the poem and then writing poems of his own allowed for a release. Curious, this power of Bukowski, right???

  • Linda Baie

    I like your thought-filled posts, Ed. And I know this poem, although it didn’t rock me as it did you (as I remember), but I did think he is right. If you are a writer, even a sometime one, it has to be for oneself (unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth) & come out without a crutch. I’m just saying… Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  • Mary Lee

    I love this poem. For me, it’s a great answer to all the people who, knowing I’ve published one book, continue to ask if I’m going to write another. No, I’m not. And no apologies. I’ve had the “bursting like a rocket out of me” experience once, which is once more than many people who like the IDEA of being a writer.

  • Ed DeCaria

    Thanks for the responses. This poem undoubtedly affects different people in different ways. I’m sure that there may be some who just read this for the first time and are having a reaction much the same as I once had. Others have already been there (and/or have done that, as in your case, Mary Lee).

    Tara, have you seen this: ?