January 24th, 2011 / 8:54 pm

being tired, being inspired

I came across this gem last night while I was not sleeping.  I’m particularly interested in Mr. Tate’s idea of “writing out of exhaustion” — that writing while tired (either physically or mentally, I guess) can result in material interestingly distinct from writing written while one is “refreshed.”  This seems to be the polar opposite of what Maggie Nelson expresses here (via here) — that periods of inactivity are somehow inherent or necessary to periods of activity.  I don’t know… I feel like I see the merits of both.  There are times when I’m particularly energized and times when I’m not, but I like to write through it all.  How bout you guys: write to exhaustion or write through exhaustion?  THOUGHTS?

Also, I really like his answer to “Who is a writer?”

It’s kinda like this:

so you want to be a writer?

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.

-Charles Bukowski

But we can’t forget this:

Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

-Frank O’Hara

And, to bring this shit full circle:


The two men sat roasting in their blue suits
on the edge of a mustard field.
Lucien Cardin, a local painter,
had suggested a portrait.
President and Vice president of the bank branch,
maybe it would hang in the lobby
inspiring confidence. It might even
cast a little grace and dignity
on the citizens of their hamlet.
They were serious men with sober thoughts
about an unstable world.
The elder, Gilbert, smoked his pipe
and gazed through his wire-rims beyond the painter.
The sky was eggshell blue,
and Lucien knew what he was doing
when he begged their pardon
and went to fetch two straw hats.
They were farmer’s hats, for working in the sun.
Gilbert and Tom agreed to wear them
to staunch their perspiration,
but they knew too the incongruity
their appearance now suggested.
And, as for the lobby of their bank,
solidarity with the farmers, their costumers.
The world might go to war — Louis flattened
Schmeling the night before — but a portrait
was painted that day in a field of mustard
outside Alexandria, Ontario,
of two men, even-tempered and level-headed,
and of what they did next there is no record.

-James Tate

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  1. Ryan Call

      andrew, ive tried several times to force myself to write every day, and i cant do it. i like the idea of periods of inactivity. i think thats how i tend to function.

  2. Ryan Call

      andrew, ive tried several times to force myself to write every day, and i cant do it. i like the idea of periods of inactivity. i think thats how i tend to function.

  3. Anonymous

      Bukowski kinda looks weird in that font

  4. Anonymous

      Bukowski kinda looks weird in that font

  5. Anonymous

      i hear you. it seems compulsive for me. like if i don’t write i get cranky.

  6. Marco Kaye
  7. Andrewworthington87

      I write later in the day or during the day, mornings are hard.

      Hemingway has always been one of my favorite writers. I think he said one should write early in the day. Whatever.

  8. Anonymous

      Hem used to get up at 3 or 4 am and write. Sometimes standing while using his dresser for a desk.

      From what I remember.

  9. Anonymous

      getting his reps in

  10. beardobees
  11. Daniel Romo

      Definite gem Nice post.

  12. reynard

      my writing cycle is dependent upon the gravitational pull of a woman named kylie, she is very beautiful

  13. Xmkdz

      im tired cause im ill does that count

  14. James Yeh

      seems pretty dangerous, reynard. what if you break up?

  15. James Yeh
  16. reynard

      oh we have a bunch of times, i wouldn’t say it’s a good decision or a bad one or even one i can help making; it is what it is

  17. cool dude fishkind

      disgusting cough at 3:19

  18. Anonymous

      sweet cat at [whenever he talks about his cat]