Charles Bukowski … so you want to be a writer!



Charles Bukowski (1920 - 1994)

Charles Bukowski was a German-born American poet, novelist, and short story writer. His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. Success didn’t come quickly or easily.


Brought up in Los Angeles, his was not an idyllic childhood. He was regularly beaten by his father, mocked by other boys for his accent and clothes, and rejected by girls because of his severe acne. 

 After graduating from Los Angeles High School, he attended Los Angeles City College for two years, taking courses in art, journalism, and literature, before quitting at the start of World War II. 

He then moved to New York to become a writer. He had two short stories published in his mid-twenties and then hit on a streak of rejections that left him disillusioned with the whole process. He quit writing and moved back to Los Angeles where he began a ten-year drinking binge.


During these years he wandered the country, worked at a pickle factory for a while, married a woman he’d never met, and nearly died from a bleeding ulcer. He eventually settled into a routine and worked at a post office for more than a decade.


While working at the post office, Bukowski was able to get some poetry and shorter works published. When small indie publisher Black Sparrow Press offered him a deal in 1969, he quit his day job to devote himself to writing at age 49, saying, “I have one of two choices-—stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.” He did not, in fact, starve. He had finished his first novel, Post Office, within four weeks of leaving the post office and just kept going from there.


I never type in the morning. I don’t get up in the morning. I drink at night. I try to stay in bed until twelve o’clock, that’s noon. Usually, if I have to get up earlier, I don’t feel good all day. I look, if it says twelve, then I get up and my day begins. I eat something, and then I usually run right up to the race track after I wake up. I bet the horses, then I come back and Linda cooks something and we talk awhile, we eat, and we have a few drinks, and then I go upstairs with a couple of bottles and I type — starting around nine-thirty and going until one-thirty, to, two-thirty at night. And that’s it.


Finally … here’s a poem by Charles Bukowski written in 1992.

So you want to be a writer?



  1. Charles Bukowski – Wikipedia
  2. Charles Bukowski: Sunlight Here I Am: Interviews and Encounters 1963-1993  (David Stephen Calonne 2003

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One response to “Charles Bukowski … so you want to be a writer!

  1. Wow, I have never read that before, and am very glad you shared! Thank you!!!

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