I WAS SENTIMENTAL ABOUT MANY THINGS: A WOMAN'S SHOES UNDER THE BED; ONE HAIRPIN LEFT BEHIND ON THE DRESSER; THE WAY THEY SAID, "I'M GOING TO PEE. . ."; HAIR RIBBONS, WALKING DOWN THE BOULEVARD WITH THEM AT 1:30 IN THE AFTERNOON, JUST TWO PEOPLE WALKING TOGETHER; THE LONG NIGHTS OF DRINKING AND SMOKING, TALKING; THE ARGUMENTS; THINKING OF SUICIDE; EATING TOGETHER AND FEELING GOOD; THE JOKES; THE LAUGHTER OUT OF NOWHERE; FEELING MIRACLES IN THE AIR; BEING IN A PARKED CAR TOGETHER; COMPARING PAST LOVERS AT 3AM; BEING TOLD YOU SNORE, HEARING HER SNORE; MOTHERS, DAUGHTERS, SONS, CATS, DOGS; SOMETIMES DEATH AND SOMETIMES DIVORCE, BUT ALWAYS CARRYING ON, ALWAYS SEEING IT THROUGH; READING A NEWSPAPER ALONE IN A SANDWICH JOINT AND FEELING NAUSEA BECAUSE SHE'S NOW MARRIED TO A DENTIST WITH AN I.Q. OF 95; RACETRACKS, PARKS, PARK PICNICS; EVEN JAILS; HER DULL FRIENDS, YOUR DULL FRIENDS; YOUR DRINKING, HER DANCING; YOUR FLIRTING, HER FLIRTING; HER PILLS, YOUR FUCKING ON THE SIDE, AND HER DOING THE SAME; SLEEPING TOGETHER. . . .
One of the many passages from writer Charles Bukowski's novel, Women, I always found comfort in his writing. His style flairs in the rawest form of honesty, something that most writers today do not have. The older I become the more I realize how important it is to pull away from the idea of what perfection is supposed to be - straight to its core in every aspect. Bukowski wasn't exactly the nicest of people; a total misogynist, narcissist and straight up alcoholic. Many disliked him, but many like myself saw him as an influence not just in the realm of writing. So in today's post I'm sharing with you five things I've learned from one of my favorite American writers.
Writers have so many things they can’t write about: family, spouses, exes, children, jobs, bosses, colleagues, friends. That’s why they make stuff up. Fiction is their best friend. But Bukowski didn’t let himself get hampered by that so we see real brutal honesty, a real anthropological survey of being down and out for 60+ years without anything being held back. No other writer before or since has done that. For a particular example, see his novel, Women which detailed every sexual nuance of every woman who dared to sleep with him after he achieved some success. Most of these women were horrified after the book came out. It's actually one of my favorite books written by Bukowski and the beginning excerpt of this post is from Women. Sure he talks badly about most of the experiences he has had with women, but what I really love about it is the cold hard dose of reality that comes with any relationship: disappointment, pain, heartache... love... and the way he is so candor about some of the more intimate parts of life. Think about it, would you find it easy or rather difficult talking about your personal relationships through the written word?
Imagine coming home from an awful day at work and arguing with a woman/man that was living with you, finishing off a six-pack of beer and then... writing. He did it every day. Most people want to write that novel, or finish that painting, or start that business, but have zero discipline to actually sit down and do it. I'm actually amazed he had any sort of discipline at all. With that kind of work ethic, it just goes to show that if you truly love what you're doing, it will supersede the rest. (Even through the potent powers of alcohol!) In order to be a writer, you must really love to write and you must write every single day. Easy to say, but so tough to do. I, myself, also write every day, but I'm not going to lie, there are some pretty bad days where I just want to throw my typewriter out the window. But you keep at it, because it's all you know, it's all you have and without the written word, you feel like you could die. That's how Bukowski felt too.
Bukowski didn't give a rat's ass what people thought about him. And I praise him for that. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder and am always second-guessing myself. I sometimes wish I could throw caution to the wind and really have that mentality of 'no f*cks given' at all times. But when feeling extra down, my insecurities tend to get the best of me. Learning the art of not caring what people think takes time and experience, I think. But I've always admired those who really didn't worry about the opinions of others - because it's not as easy as it looks. It can be cleverly hidden in so many different ways.
Bukowski was quite the poet. And it's all non-fiction, which to me, is the best part. It's not the puzzle-kind of poetry where you have to intellectually decode it to understand it. His work was straight to the point. Poetry was something that let writers to master making each word in a sentence effective and powerful. It was this training that allowed them to destroy the competition when they sat down to write their longer pieces. That's how I also got started in writing. In fact, the first two pieces I ever had published were actually poems I wrote as a young teenager. It was only after these publications that I really started to consider becoming a writer.
The man wrote his first novel at age 49. And it took him over 25 years to become a successful writer. Everyone (mostly everyone) nowadays wants instant gratification. Less and less are understanding what it takes to become one of the greats. I find that when most figure out how long or how much dedication/work will be required to reach whatever goal you may have, most tend to give up before even reaching that halfway mark. And Bukowski was far from perfect and yet still managed to become what he wanted to become. So if he could stay persistent despite all the misfortunes and misgivings life can bring, he still kept plugging away and never gave up. And to me, that's what makes the heart of any champion...