Writers, don’t try…

Letters of Note published this great letter from Charles Bukowski to the founder of New York QuarterlyWilliam Packard. I love everything about this letter, including the misspellings and the doodles. Bukowski offers these words on writing:

When everything works best it’s not because you chose writing but because writing chose you. It’s when you’re mad with it, it’s when it’s stuffed in your ears, your nostrils, under your fingernails. It’s when there’s no hope but that.

Last night, I was thinking about this letter and about Bukowski, freezing in a tarpaper shack but still writing with a pencil stub in the margins of newspapers he found on the floor. I wondered if I had ever had such passion for writing. I remember writing a lot when I was younger, writing even when there were other, more interesting things to do, but I was never even close to a situation as rough as that.

But as we get older and more settled, as we take on a family or a job or a home (or, most likely, all three), the passions and obsessions that used to drive us get left behind, it seems. They leak out of us like air out of an old balloon. Then we wake up one day all flat and limp, and wonder what happened.

It’s likely that never happened to Bukowski, though. The writing had infected him too deeply. I both envy him and I’m glad I’m not like him.

[via Don't try.]