Wouldn’t you know it, five seconds, maybe ten seconds, after I hit “publish” on the previous piece, peevish about the long delay getting back to me by someone who promised to read something I’d sent her, I get a notification beep in my pocket. I swear to your false gods, it was a few blinks of an eye. An email from her, with an excellent reason for the delay, and some intelligent comments on the piece.
I appreciate her email, even as I also realized, as soon as I’d read it, that it was just an opinion. Like mine, like anyone’s who clicks a thumb up or a thumb down on any of the 100,000,000,000 daily posts on the internet or any of its social media tentacles and capillaries. Hey, Gangnam Style got a billion views at one point, probably has two billion by now (3,140,146,265 views and counting, grazie, Jeevsie). Does that make it the greatest youtube video of all-time?
Who gives a fuck? The audience you write for is your own cultivated taste, served to the most intelligent, subtle-minded reader you can imagine. It’s easy to forget that, particularly when the winds are stagnant and you’re getting the toxic stink full snout. A friend sent me this poem by the great Charles Bukowski, which reminds us all of this, and more. Kind of says it all (I have emphasized the stanza my friend pointed out). Bon appétit:
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 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.
From sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way by Charles Bukowski. Copyright © 2003 by the Estate of Charles Bukowski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.
Note to HarperCollins and the Estate of Charles Bukowski: please forgive this Fair Use of your copyrighted Charles Bukowski poem (and thanks for keeping the old boy in print for us all).
If you deem this zero profit use a copyright violation, please have your lawyers contact my literary agent’s attorneys at … what did I do with that damned business card?
Better yet, read some of the recent shit on this site and let me know what kind of contracts you’re offering bitter fucking writers these days.