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Musing #6 : Bukowski
When trying can hurt you
It's Sunday! Writing these musings posts keeps me alive and the responses I'm getting keep me energized. I am really enjoying the comments but even more so, the longer replies I get. I've been learning so much from you all, thanks for being here with me on this book journey.
I am starting to see my writing endeavours as long winded creations, that would only get better the more I wrote. So technically, I'd rather publish something in ten years rather than now. By releasing a lot of my old ideas on what success means, I can find more wind for my sails to keep me going.
I have recently stumbled upon a book of poems and short stories by Charles Bukowski, called Betting on The Muse. It is an intimate account of his thoughts that brought me so much closer to the renown author.
Despite Bukowski's wild success and fame, his own story is about his long pursuit for the gumption to keep writing, against 20+ years of constant rejection. The world kept telling him ‘No you are not a writer', and yet he kept writing. Day in and day out.
So what kept him going? And what keeps us all trying to do the hard things that we aspire to do despite the setbacks, failures and rejections?
According to Bukowski's philosophy, it is not about just trying harder. It is all about the reasons why we try so hard in the first place, and what makes something worth doing for us.
The reason he kept writing is because he understood that this what he really wants to do. It wasn't getting published or rich or famous, but the sheer act of spilling his guts on his typewriter that enlivened him.
I reflect on that and it brings me so much relief to think about my writing (or any of my projects) that way. I really want to spend a lot of time with my imaginary characters and heal with them. I want to write a novel trilogy that I would love to read myself. So as long as I'm doing the things that fill me up, then I'll continue doing them for a long time regardless of whether the world rewards me for it.
It is a bit counterintuitive but if the reason behind the art is not material success, and instead the sheer true joy of the creator, then the chances of success become much higher. I’m still wrapping my head around this.
I’ll leave you with a short video about Bukowski’s life and why the infamous words “Don't Try” are written on his grave. It is frequently misconstrued as “don’t put in your best effort” which was not the case for his writing career. He tried so hard, but all he is saying is to make sure that it is all worth it first.
“We work too hard. We try too hard. Don't try. Don't work. It's there. It's been looking right at us, aching to kick out of the closed womb. There's been too much direction. It's all free, we needn't be told.”
–––from his letter to William Packard, 1990
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start”
I hope you make the time to do the things that you love this week, and that you don’t waste your energy trying towards things that don’t fill you up with joy and purpose.
Next Sunday I'll follow up on these thoughts by breaking down the word gumption and why I chose it as a name for this blog.
Can’t wait to see you next week with the Gumption origin story,