Video: So You Want to Be a Writer? by Charles Bukowski (read by Tom O’Bedlam)

Posted: November 8, 2015 in graffiti living, links
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Don’t buy it. This is Charles Bukowski telling Charles Bukowski how to write like Charles Bukowski. He’s guilty himself of all those sins he’s admonishing you against as an aspiring writer.

You might have a natural inborn talent as a writer – or, for that matter, as a plumber or a portrait painter – but that’s not the way to bet. You can’t rely on raw talent. It’s nice to be a genius of course (did somebody else use that phrase?) but most people have to learn their trade or profession.

Thomas Gray spent a lifetime rewriting and polishing his poems. His “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” took him over 20 years. It is held by many to be the best poem in the language – not the most popular, a dubious honour held by Kipling’s “If…” Anyway Gray’s Elegy didn’t just come bursting out of him: he ground it out over decades. He studied the poetry of the ancients, he wrote Horatian and Pindaric Odes, he learned his craft.

In fact, when you look at the lives of most poets closely, most of them learned their craft by studying other writers. There have been a few successful primitives, but most of their efforts are merely quaint. You can’t just sit down and write, unless you’re willing to judge what you’ve written harshly and compare your work with the work of others.

Just as Science depends on the findings of previous scientists, on Newton and Faraday for instance, so poetry depends on the body of literature that has gone before it. You can’t depart from the norm unless you understand thoroughly what the norm is. You can’t be a rebel unless you know what you’re rebelling against.

Remember there is and was only one Charles Bukowki. Don’t try to be him.


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