Bukowski on Writing

so you want to be a writer?
by Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.
if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.
don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.
when it is truly time,
and if 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.

Advice to Myself

I posted this on a blog I wrote back in 2005 titled, “The Idle Hour.”

Don’t eat too healthy.
Sing in the shower.
Have fun, but work hard and don’t mix the two.
Raise your hand.
Ask questions.
Remember names.
Watch a TV show religiously.
Read books and magazines.
Stay clean.
Take a big risk from time to time.
Don’t forget how good home is.
Learn to depend on others, but don’t trust everyone.
Be moved by music.
Love someone.
Be foolish.
Don’t be fake.

Let’s see how I’m doing now, nearly four years later.

I rarely get the recommended amount of sleep, which, depending on source, varies. But I don’t feel tired and I seem to function well during the day.

I definitely don’t eat too healthy. Back when I wrote this I was downing about two burritos, four PopTarts, five cans of Diet Pepsi, countless cups of coffee, and a healthy amount of junk food – daily. Needless to say I gained a little weight. Not too much, but enough so that I didn’t fit into a pair of pants I bought in college. An odd feeling, but being young, it didn’t slow me down. I eat better now. I haven’t succumbed to the protein rich (enjoyment low) diets that some of my male friends endure for bigger muscles. (Really, how much muscle does it take to read and type!). It’s all about moderation.

I sign in the shower, but my true source of creative movement relief is dancing in the car while driving. Just give me XM channel 20 (Top 20 pop songs) and pump up the volume. I honestly think I might have some moves to show off that people would want to see. However, put me on the floor of a dance club and I will stand there frozen. I believe this is a comfort zone issue!

I have fun and I work hard. That’s pretty much how you have to approach law school if you want to survive.

I have not raised my hand enough in the past few years. It’s intimidating and often opens a can of worms. To my knowledge no one has died from raising their hand to date. I’m making a concerted effort to speak more in my classes this semester because my class sizes are smaller (six to 15 students) and the silence kills me.

Ask questions. Ditto.

I’m still horrible at remembering names. I need to work on this. I can meet someone, go through introductions, and then literally immediately forget what they said. It’s a “being present” issue, I believe. My mind is actually ahead of the moment in time thinking of something about which to converse. Definitely need to work on this.

I watch a lot of TV shows religulously. This has never been a problem and never will be. However, and this is a contradictory statement, TV is very take it or leave it for me. Not necessarily because I don’t care to see a show, but because there are so many ways to time shifting my shows.

I read a lot for school, which I don’t count as reading. Reading, for me, is more like reading something I got from Amazon or an actual bookstore. Reading, for me, is something of which I don’t do enough.

I’m clean. Except, now, I don’t like washing my jeans. Ever. It’s just not right to wash denim. Otherwise, I’m very clean and organized.

I don’t take enough big risks. This is partly tied to decisions. I need to develop a personalized approach to dealing with difficult problems more efficiently. Then take the risks without regret. I’m specifically thinking about the company I need to get off the ground with my sister. It’s been put off for too long.

Home is amazing. I have not forgotten. Nor will I ever. Traverse City is home. It’s both the same and very different every time I return. (This reminds me of the Benjamin Button quote.)

I think I have learned to depend on others. This line from above is my least favorite. It makes me seem like I was wronged at the time by someone or something. Perhaps I felt that way because of the chaos at work at the time. But honestly, no one has ever really ruined my trust in them. The best thing I can take out of this is, perhaps, that I need to develop a tougher skin.

I am more moved by music than ever before. I’m green, uninformed and at timed aloof to trends in music. However, it can be powerful, funny, fun, happy, rad, etc. You name it…

Love someone. Love someone. Love someone.

Someone close to me said recently that I’m too serious. It was seconded by another person. So, perhaps I have some work to do on being foolish, letting loose, and enjoying the present for what it is. I suppose my worrying negates any foolishness points gained by car dancing.

Don’t be fake. This is something that comes with age. Although I will say this. That the pressure to assimilate sways. As a teenager I wanted to fit in (to an extent – I was not desperate for attention). To be the same was not something that concerned me. I wanted to do well. To be good. Now, however, assimilation means, for example, not writing a blog entry that will hinder my job prospects should a prospective employer read it. I hate that. To me that is censorship of my expression. It is a harsh reality of the life I am currently in pursuit of. Somehow, there has to be a balance between not being fake and not screwing myself over. I’m not there yet, so mark this one down as still working.

How to Speak

“How To Speak” is a video lecture by Patrick Winston about how to successfully convey information during a lecture. The information seems a bit dated. He speaks about the use of overhead projectors. From my experience, PowerPoint slides projected on a screen have largely replaced transparent projector slides. (Last time I saw a transparency was in undergrad where they were frequently used. That was 4+ years ago.)

The lecture is available in 13 parts, each of which is a few minutes long. I just watched the entire series, and here’s what I took away from the lecture as a student.

Start your lecture with a promise. (Don’t start with a joke.)

I think of the promise as a header or title that generally describes what I’m about to learn about. I find this very helpful upon review of my lecture notes.

Have a visible outline

My Federal Courts professor arrives five minutes before the start of class to write his outline for that day’s class on the board. I’m able to copy the outline and then fill it in with more detailed information during class. Having this structure is extremely helpful in making sense of otherwise tricky material.

Rarely have I had a professor who uses no visual aids (outline on board, PowerPoint, etc.) These lectures are a much less valuable learning tool for me as a student. I am busy and have better ways to spend my time than to try to grab keywords from speech.

Worse yet than no visual guide is when a professor has a guide, but refuses to hand it out and moves through it so quickly that even noting the gist of each slide is impossible. My Article II Sales course was taught in this manner. Fellow students were clearly frustrated, throwing their hands up in the air and generally giving up on any note-taking whatsoever.

The Big Four

1. Cycle material – repeat points 3 times
2. Verbal punctuation – keep audience aware of what you’re talking about
3. Near miss – teach the concept and what is not the concept
4. Ask rhetorical questions

My best professors do all of these. Whether it’s natural or they’ve been taught this, these techniques are very helpful to me as a student. The reason for repetition is that people zone out. I can attest to this. The near miss is especially helpful in understanding what a concept actually is.

Other general notes

Setting: The best setting for a speaking is around 10am in a well-lit full room. As a student, this is a fairly good time to hold a lecture. I prefer to get my lectures out of the way early in the day. Others like to sleep in. It’s a toss up.

Whiteboard: Using a blackboard or whiteboard sets a better pace than PowerPoint slides. That later of which causes information overload and can move things along too quickly. As a student, I can attest to this. However, most of my professors that use PowerPoint also provide copes of the slides.

Style: The video made a good point about adapting others’ speaking strengths to your own style, so that you’re not copying anyone, but instead improving yourself.

Stories: Stories are invaluable for me. I love hearing professors talk about their case work, clients, and mishaps. Hearing stories does two things for me: (1) brings the material to life and (2) gives me a break from taking notes.

How to stop: Finish with a joke. Deliver on your promise, and show the audience how you did so. Call for Q&A.; Salute the audience, don’t thank them.


* Non-verbal communication from the audience is very influential
* Value of instructor is to speak opinion about the facts, not just regurgitate the facts
* Be mindful of what people already know – then figure out how to add to that.

Dot.com Stock Investing Principles

I think about investing money in stocks frequently. I’m young and can afford to take more of a risk now than I ever will be able to in the future. With that said, I still think the guiding principle for all investing should be “buy for the long-run.” That is, buy stock that you think will increase over the long-run, not something that will spike in a month, offer a small return, and leave you pressured to sell.

After reading Fred Wilson’s post on A VC about why he just bought Amazon stock and recently purchased Google stock, too, I thought back to Warren Buffet’s age-old approach of buying stock in companies that supply a good that consumers consume regularly. E.g., Coca Cola, razor blades, etc.

One of Fred’s reasons for buying Amazon stock is that, despite their large PE ratio, Amazon is the first place his family shops for anything – even before going to a local store.

So, is there a principle to be extracted from this approach to buying dot.com stock? Should we be looking for the Dot.coms that are irresistible replacements for everyday errands? That seems to make a lot of sense.

Afterthought – With increased demand to have things delivered, won’t there be an increased demand on delivery companies like FedEx, DHS, UPS, and the USPS? I would imagine they’re thrilled that people are buying more online than local stores.

Visiting Asian Cities

Two rules for visiting Asian cities (link – NYT)

1. Don’t walk — seeing an Asian city on foot is like cruising the Caribbean in a rowboat
2. Don’t attempt more than three things per day — each will take far longer than expected.

The article goes on to say that the Beijing metro is 3 yuan, the base fare for a taxi is 10 yuan and if you can stand the heat, a bicycle rental is only 20 yuan for the entire day. However, I would assume that means you have to store the bike at each place you visit and return it to the rental shop, which is probably confusing.

I’m wondering if taking a compass would be a good ideas so that I can remain oriented if I go on a walk or bikeride. Having absolutely no knowledge of the language I anticipate getting lost frequently.