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Talk to Me Bukowski

There has inhabited in me a latent resolve to be a writer. For years it hovered calmly under the surface, rather inconspicuous to my everyday existence and temperament. Knowledge of its existence lay buried near the border of conscious and sub-conscious thought, and I was happy to allow its quiet incubation in those corners of my mind. However, lately, a surge of determination has unearthed the desire and given it light and purpose. Circumstances in life have driven it firmly to the surface. As I attempt to battle with influences while molding my writing into shape, one inspiring voice continues echoing the chambers of my brain: Charles Bukowski. 

“What is your advice to young writers? Drink, fuck and smoke plenty of cigarettes.”

Charles Bukowski,  Hot Water Music 

Yes, kids, writers are cool!  

On the surface, Charles Bukowski forms an image completely contrarian to anything resembling a family-friendly role model. 

Vile, crude, and romantically foul, he epitomized a bad-boy definition or character; he consistently grasped at the jaws of life with all his abrasive and belligerent swagger. He painted a picture of an alcoholic romantic or made being an alcoholic romantic. However, beneath the rough and macho exterior, a devoted and thoughtful man lay the groundwork for essential writing. 

Over the years, having read and analyzed Bukowski’s work and lifestyle, important themes have consistently surfaced and impregnated an image of life as a writer in my imagination. He has played an integral role in driving my determination toward a writing life. 

Alcohol and the writer 

“I don’t think I have written a poem when I was completely sober.”

Charles Bukowski

The relationship is ripe with romance and luster; writer and the bottle. I am not suggesting gravitating toward a lifestyle of perpetual booze. I have explored writing under the influence, and it does not agree with me, nor does it wield any clarity or coherence. However, studies suggest that alcohol can create positive effects on imagination and creativity and can misdirect ideas and information to help make unusual connections. Creativity generated by the mind under the influence allows for new original ideas to breach the surface. With the absence of focus, the buzzed brain breaks all inhibitors and writes. But that only works with minimal consumption. 

Maybe Bukowski and Hunter Thompson and Jack Kerouac and the long list of prolific alcoholic writers tapped into their idea level of drunkenness and were able to sustain that level for prolonged periods. Their tolerance to alcohol could have 

There might lay a sliver of truth in this romantic relationship between alcohol and writing. It might be worth a second trial next time I struggle to find anything to write about. 

Writing Every Day 

Charles Bukowski exemplified determination and hard work. His prolific ambition to be a writer is well documented. Through his autobiographical profiles, his candid interviews, or posthumous confessions by friends and close acquaintances, one factor has remained vividly apparent: Bukowski wrote a lot! 

I have written about the effects of writing every day and how that led me to discover happiness and clarity of conscience. In 2020, I wrote nearly every single day, upwards of a thousand words a day. Bukowski however, was a different creature. Some say he wrote 5 to even 10 hours every day. He wrote feverishly, always at night and with booze by his side, for hours and hours. Even his publishers couldn’t keep up with his pace. 

Linda King, an ex-girlfriend, speaks in Vice on his work ethic and ambition to write every day, “I don’t think people realize how hard he worked at it.” 

The enormous stretch of published and unpublished works indicates how ambitiously driven he was. Lesson learned: be more like Bukowski and write every damn day! Something is bound to hit. 

Poetry and the Writer

I have come to know and admire Bukowski mostly through his novels: Factotum, Woman, Pulp, yet I understand that his creative beginnings and his cling to fame originate both from his passion for poetry. It seems that poetry can have quite positive effects on writers of all walks of life. 

Poetry brings out candid prose and emotional sensitivity, a sort of music to the eyes through words and well-constructed sentences. It helps construct images and rhythm and is a boon to writers, readers, and just about every other living, breathing intellectual hominid. 

I have never even fantasized about writing poetry before. The thought eludes me. It frightens the inner core of my creative being. As I reread Bukowski’s works, I get a sense of how poetry played such an essential role in allowing him to write simply in such rhythmic prose. His novels read effortlessly; the words never get in the way of his ideas and content. 

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”

Charles Bukowski

I believe that his experiences and influences with poetry have garnered him the ability to write simply, concisely even, as not to allow the words any chance of getting in the way of the idea. Poetry embraces this idea; to tell a story in as little space as possible. Content must be clear and concise. As Bukowski would likely say it: “There’s no room on the page for bullshit.” 

His Approach to Fame 

In his aptly titled poem ‘Fame’, Bukowski writes, 

“some want it, I don’t want it, I

want to do whatever it is I do

and just do it.

I don’t want to look into the

adulating eye,

shake the sweating

palm.

I think that whatever I do

is my business.”

His views on fame were admirable and intertwined beautifully with his character and modesty. It was evident that Bukowski was writing to pay his next bar tab or the next trip to the beer shop. He wrote to survive; there existed little ego in his works. It is an important lesson to any aspiring writer. The profession exhausts consistent criticism. The writer must be firm in his resolve when sharing his life’s ideas and passions with the world. To have an ego, to be driven by success and fame would be death. Or as Bukowski famously put it, 

“When a writer is swayed with his fame and his fortune, you can float him down the river with the turds.”

Charles Bukowski

As an aspiring writer myself, I seek comfort in aligning my life’s values and practices with my influences. Throughout a large chunk of my reading life, I have immersed myself in the prose of Bukowski, sought refuge in his stories and his character and larger-than-life persona. It is relevant that I look to him for guidance. It makes sense that I stretch out to him in search of inspiration. I have picked pockets of his life’s work to help assemble a fair picture of a writer who seemed well-aligned with success. The hope is that I can scramble through these very vivid impressions leftover of him to help guide me on my journey to becoming a better writer. 

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t ever start.”

Charles Bukowski
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