So, You Want to Be a Writer?

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing

April is poetry month and today I read So, You Want to Be a Writer? by Charles Bukowski. This might just be my favorite poem of all time about writing. Except maybe for this one and this other one. (But I digress.) Anyway hop on over and read the Bukowski poem right now. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

Great, you’re back.

Why did I just make you read that? Because that poem tells it like it is. It shows a real picture of a writer’s life, with all the good, bad, and ugly rolled up together.

So, you want to be a writer?

There’s no such thing as “being a writer.” You either do it or you don’t.

Remember that quote from The Empire Strikes Back ? “Do or do not. There is no try.” I think Yoda was onto something. Being a writer isn’t who we are, it’s what we do. We become writers through action, by doing the work. You want to write? Don’t pussyfoot around! Write.

So, you want to be a writer?

This life is for the chosen few and you have to choose it.

Our mission as writers–should we choose to accept it–is to write the best damn book possible. This is not for the faint of heart. A lot of people say they want to write, but when push comes to shove they never actually do anything. They sit around in cafes talking about writing and debating whether or not to get an MFA. They moan about the “state of the industry” and how publishing has gone down the tubes since the “golden days.”

Writers don’t waste time with empty chatter. They show up and do the work. They accept that mission to write a damn good book, and in making this choice they become part of that exclusive tribe. They become the chosen few.

So, you want to be a writer?

Don’t try to explain yourself to the unchosen. They will never understand.

Non-writers–muggles as I like to call them–think that writing is easy. They think it’s something we do as a hobby in our spare time. The fools! Don’t they realize that writing is an obsession, an incurable disease woven into the very fabric of our DNA?

Muggles say stupid things like “I’d love to write a book, if only I could find the time.” Nonsense. We don’t find time for writing, we make the time. They ask ridiculous questions like “when are you going to find a real job?” when the truth is we already have a real job. We’re writers; we just happen to moonlight as something else to pay the bills.

You can try to enlighten these muggles, to make them see the error of their ways, but in the end it’s a waste of time. Time that’s better spent writing, by the way.

So, you want to be a writer?

Know that writing is hard, but not writing is harder.

Writing is damn hard.  We suffer with our characters. We feel their pain and endure their heartache. We wake up in the wee hours to clock in our words before a busy day. We stay up late into the night to get those last few sentences down. Writing isn’t easy by any stretch, but it’s far less painful than the alternative.

When writers don’t write, they don’t feel right. I know this from experience and can see a sharp decline in my patience, kindness, and overall sanity the longer I am away from the page. When I haven’t written for a period of time, I lose my temper more. I freak out over stupid things. I yell at the cat.

The more I write, the better I am, both at my craft and as a human being. I write because it hurts too much not to. I suspect most writers feel the same.

So, you want to be a writer?

You are not alone.

You may feel like a weirdo at times. Like you’re the only person in the world who talks to imaginary friends or hears voices in your head. Know that you’re not the only one. There are other word nerds out there who are just as weird as you are. I know because I’m one of them.

When you find a likeminded writer on that road less traveled, hold them tight. These fellow travelers will be your comrades on this crazy journey, a journey that no one else will ever understand because they’re not like us. They’re not writers.

Enjoyed this article?