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.

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.

I have flown over flowers of perfume,
Fondled and touched them before,
I have kissed them so often
And hotly,
That their lips seemed unmeaning to mine.

I am haunted by a meaning of petals
Hovering in vain
In the mind,
I am startled by a new significance
The petals convey with their eyes.
I am frightened by a thought that their color
Of purple and white provokes.

I see a red flower,
I smell a white rose,
I pluck them not
By my eyes from the sight of these!
I falter to look into them
And fail to touch them now.

Ah! these eyes and hands that have often
With a gaze, a caress profane, polluted the pure!
What lips are these to speak of flowers,
O! what lips, what lips are these!
Listless lips
Cursed with kisses in moments unholy
Of shame!

I must leave these flowers of morning.
I must leave unprofaned
These petals consecrated
To mothers on earth,
To mothers in heaven.

From purposed forgetfulness
I peep on a dawn of flowers which I
Must not see.
I will sleep to forget them again
As I have forgotten before.

From Manila: A Collection of Verse (Imp. Paredes, Inc., 1926) by Luis Dato. This poem is in the public domain.