‘They didn’t want to write. They wanted to succeed at writing’

I’ve recently read ‘The Last Night of the Earth Poems’ by Charles Bukowski, one of my favourite poets. He’s pretty much the only one I’ve read that I can just pick up a book of his poems and read them front-to-back, without wanting to put it down.

One of the poems in there is called ‘between races’ wherein he describes an encounter with a guy who approaches him at the race track. The guy says he reads his stuff and wants to interview him, and is a writer himself.

Bukowki’s advice to the guy?

just pull up a chair

and sit down at your

typewriter

I think he’s right in so many ways.

He goes on to describe all the different ways these guys who talk about wanting to be writers get it wrong. The part that stuck out to me the most was:

they didn’t want to

write

they wanted to

succeed at

writing.

This is great. I love this because it encapsulates what I feel is the mistake of thinking ahead of the creative process while you are in it. Of not doing justice to the creative urge, tarnishing it unnecessarily, making it defective before the damn thing has even been born.

It is from this idea of ‘succeeding’, of ‘success’ that people censor themselves worrying about how other people might react, don’t say what they really think, try and dress something up in a different way, trying to second guess themselves. This is why so much of what gets put out there is such a pale imitation of the initial spark that caused its creation, rather than the blazing fire or cannon blast that each could be.

If you concentrate on digging up the treasure, you won’t have to worry about who you’ll have to sell it to when you wash up on the beach.

They’ll see you shining from miles away.

They’ll come to you. And you’ll be ready.

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One Response to “‘They didn’t want to write. They wanted to succeed at writing’”

  1. Love the beach metaphor. Are you a writer? I’m in a writers circle who post something new each month. If you’re interested in seeing what we submit and want to join, send me a message. You’ve got treasure.

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