So You Want To Be A Writer?

There is so much that steals time from a writer. Work, family, friends, life. They are all important and it is easy to say I’ll write tonight, tomorrow or this weekend. Then when I finally sit down to write there are days when I am overwhelmed and daunted by the blank page. I question my career choice. I doubt my passion. And then I found this poem:

so you want to be a writer?
Charles Bukowski, 1920 – 1994
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.
Depressing, right? Well, no. It works like reverse psychology. Every time I read “Don’t do it” everything is my soul cries out “screw you”. I do not write under the perfect circumstances. Sometimes the writing flows, sometimes it doesn’t. I have difficult days and I have brilliant days, but I know I want to do this. I want the struggle. I want the blank page. I want the blinking cursor. I want to write. 

No one will tell me how to do it or what it should be like. It works for me. I am learning. I am growing. I don’t have a tea-toting wife who brings me sarmies between scenes. I fight for every minute I spend writing. But I will keep fighting. I will keep writing until it is ‘truly time’. I will do it. So screw you, Charles. Stephen King said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Or I can go all Nike on you and say, “Just do it.”

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

 by Mia Botha

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    18 responses
    Haha, great. I write novels for a living and I was preparing a great big angry reply in my mind while reading this, when you took my words right out of my mouth with your thoughts at the end. Writing is hard work and I would say, if you´re not prepared to do it even on days when you hate it, even when it´s hard and devastating, being a full time writer and making a living with it is not for you.
    Mia, This is awesome. Got change from our regular posts.
    I shared this and would like to keep a copy in my writing folder. Will you please email this to me? Thank you!
    15 visitors upvoted this post.