Summary and Analysis of So You Want To Be A Writer: 2022

 About the poet: Charles Bukowski

Born as Heinrich Karl Bukowski in Andernach, Germany on August 16, 1920, Charles Bukowski was a prolific American poet, novelist, columnist as well as a short story writer. His style of writing was simple, direct and thus it became an inspiration for many writers. After taking up courses in art, journalism and literature, he moved to New York with his passion of becoming a splendid writer. He wrote about the lives of ordinary Americans as well as about his own life and his main focus was on tough parts of life. His major works include Post Office, Scarlet Women and numerous other classics. Unfortunately, the life of this influential writer came to an end on March 9, 1994.

Setting of So You Want To Be A Writer

Bukowski himself suffered undeserved pain and depression which helped him in keeping his writings simple and direct. “So You Want To Be A Writer” is one such masterpiece. The poem completely revolves around the passion and zeal that one requires to become a creative writer. Words like ‘don’t do it’, ‘forget about it’, ‘do something else’ have been cleverly used to demur the one who strives to be a well known writer. Becoming a writer may seem an easy task but the one who faces all the challenges that hinder his path is the only one best suited for a profession like this. The passion of becoming a renowned writer must go hand-in-hand with the purpose of writing. The opinions of the author emphasizes strongly on what it takes to be a writer and the do’s and don’ts of becoming an aspiring writer.

Poetic Devices in So You Want To Be A Writer

Poetic devices are used to make the poem more interesting and making it easy for the readers to comprehend it in a better way. A list of poetic devices used in the poem are:
It is probably one of the most useful poetic devices when analysing or writing poetry.
‘don’t do it’
‘again and again’
‘when it is truly time’
‘don’t be dull’
It is used to draw some sort of comparison among things which are alike.
‘your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut’
This is used to draw a direct comparison and is yet another useful poetic device.
‘don’t be like so many writers’
‘don’t be like so many thousands of people’
It is used to present the things in such a way that they appeal directly to our senses.
‘bursting out of you’
‘staring at your computer screen’
‘hunched over your typewriter’
‘trying to write like somebody’
‘roar out of you’
‘comes out of your soul like a rocket’
‘drive you to madness or suicide or murder’
‘sun inside you is burning your gut’
‘until you die or it dies in you’
It is used to create a lasting effect of what is said.
‘don’t do it’ : It has been repeated over ten times to dare the aspiring writer of the do’s and don’ts of what it takes to be a writer.

Style of So You Want To Be A Writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you (a)
in spite of everything, (b)
don’t do it. (c)
unless it comes unasked out of your (d)
heart and your mind and your mouth (e)
and your gut, (f)
don’t do it. (c)
The poem lacks any rhyme scheme to keep the content simple and make it easy to comprehend for the readers. Moreover this is Bukowski’s style of writing. He keeps the text plain and precise and does not believe in beating around the bush.

Summary of So You Want To Be A Writer

The poem “So You Want To Be A Writer’ was posthumously released in the year 2003. When Bukowski became a writer, his main focus was to address the tough lives of Americans. He wrote about simple everyday topics about the lives of those as well as his own.
Bukowski has strong opinions on what it takes to be a writer. In the entire poem, he sounds as if the art of writing is gifted only to a few and that it is useless for others to try and be one.
A lot can be inferred from the title of the poem itself. The title itself sarcastically comments on one’s desire to be a writer. It directly and plainly addresses the fact that a mere desire can’t lead you to the path of writing. That zeal and real passion are the true drivers. In the very first line itself the poet warns the aspiring writer not to even dare and think of becoming a writer if that zeal of becoming so doesn’t flicker right from within. He says that until all your senses are fully into it, don’t aspire for it. It isn’t an easy task, he says. You will have to sit for hours, put your heart and soul in it, look for ideas, thoughts and inspirations. You’ll have to look for words from anywhere to everywhere. You’ll have to scratch your head and beat your brain too. You might feel frustrated, demotivated and might lose hope. At times you’ll run out of your senses too. You might have to work day and night by breaking your back. If the motive is just name and fame, there’s no point taking it up. This idea is very well portrayed by repeating the words like “DON’T DO IT” along with the use of words “murder” and “suicide”. Lack of any rhyme scheme and keeping the structure simple is possibly done to make the readers understand about Bukowski’s style and his own thoughts on the same. He states that if several pages have to torn and rewritten only in the name of hard work, this isn’t for you. Trying to copy someone?…NAAA! This isn’t what you are meant for.
Patience and originality are the keys. He strongly feels that a burning passion must be possessed for this aspiration. It’s more of a creative process, more like capturing lightning in a bottle. Sometimes you may not find it and the other second it comes right to you as if it found you itself. Even if you have to wait for the best to come out, wait for it. But if it’s too late, go for something else. If it has to be read out to your near and dear ones, something still needs to be worked upon. Don’t try to be like others, try and be the real version of yourself. Don’t waste your energy only to make a perfect contribution in piling up books in libraries. There are many who do it. He states that if it’s meant for you, it will pop out right from within. If this is what you are made for, you’ll get it sooner or later. That burning desire in you would not let you part away. It will keep on smouldering in you. It would not let you sleep, you would not sleep because of it. Either it will die in you or you will die for it. There is no other way to escape, there never was, there will never be any. Your job is to just to speak your heart out, to let the world know what you feel, put forward your ideas in a simple and understandable manner and take it right on your chin. Whatever you write should be able to consume each and every thought of yours. A thrill of excitement should run through you. If you’re able to do it without undergoing any stress, you’re done. This job is perfect for you!

Critical Analysis of So You Want To Be A Writer

The poem has been written in a really simple language to make it easy for the readers to comprehend it. It somehow reflects the quote written on his tombstone stating “Don’t Try” which is considered to be Bukowski’s motto as well. At first, one tends to feel that the message is that of laziness and lack of ambition as is referred from the words ‘Don’t do it’ which have been repeated constantly. But as one moves further, one actually understands what Bukowski is trying to make us aware about. He critically highlights the necessities of taking up writing as a profession. He makes the reader question whether the profession of writing is really what the reader strives for? He feels that the thoughts have to be put in words in the easiest way possible, which is even his own way of writing. In some context, the tone of the poem looks like that of personal frustration rather than that of a professional advice. This might be due to the uneasiness and problems he might have to face during his childhood. The poet feels that writing must not be taken up as something for name and fame, but majority of the people wish to write only to earn either money or stardom. One may or may not agree with what is said in the poem because of their different perceptions. Some may take it as a professional advice and start working upon it while others may not be affected by Bukowski’s viewpoint of becoming a writer. Those others may rely on destiny to become a writer. But this may not always mean that good writing happens only to gifted people. One may not be a born writer but becomes one with his hard work, patience, sincerity and dedication.

Central Idea of So You Want To Be A Writer

The central idea of the poem is that of taking up ‘writing’ as a profession. Writing may seem fun to some and a totally boring and stressful activity to many others. It totally depends on one’s interests. The author only wants that one should derive pleasure and happiness in whatsoever he/she wishes to pursue. Writing is a diverse field. There is no single route to enter into this field and this is what makes it beneficial. One should limit himself/herself only due to the stereotypical thinking that there are no  prospects of growth. Taking up writing as a career poses a number of challenges, but if one is ready to face and overcome those, nothing in this world can stop him from coming out with flying colors.

Tone of So You Want To Be A Writer

The gradual shift from demotivating one to not be a writer to giving professional advice on what it takes to become one, the entire poem presents a perfect contrast. Bukowski’s incapability of becoming a successful writer to taking up writing again after he developed a bleeding ulcer perfectly go in the way as that of the poem. His dedication towards writing by taking up several other activities including guard, stock boy, dishwasher to support his passion show the zeal and raw passion that he had for writing. Just because he had suffered himself, he didn’t use mincing of words to write. He only wrote about things that bothered him and this poem being one of the perfect examples illustrating the same.

Bukowski’s Style

Bukowski feels that sooner or later you will get what you deserve. There will be a time when your hard work will pay off. That time will come soon. That will be the time you will work for it. You would not feel tired working for hours because that will be the time your passion will give you eternal bliss. Looking for synonyms, antonyms would not bother you much. You will start to love your work even more. And that love for your job will ultimately motivate you to keep moving forward. Your work will be the only matter of concern for you. Either you will leave the world working for it or it will leave the world in you and there would be no alternatives and there was not any either.
“when it is truly time,
and 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. “


“So You Want To Be A Writer” by Charles Bukowski is just an effort to make you feel that things you wish to take up in life have to be analysed critically on several parameters. As quoted by him “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire” clearly motivates one that whatever you wish to pursue, do it with complete sincerity and dedication. You might fail at times, you might not know what to do at times, sometimes you may even lose hope. But your hard work and originality would not let you fail. You will surely turn out to be the best. Nobody would be able to stop you then. All you will get is success and tranquility then. So keep moving and keep working.
Contributor : Nishtha Alagh

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