What do you need to create?

I don’t like to publish posts this close together. Posts are like bottles of wine. You have to uncork them and give them time to breathe and mature. But I just read this and am as blown away today as I was when I first read it many years ago and I wanted to share it with you guys. Plus, I’m snowed-in and bored.

Stick with this. Ride it out to the end. It’s Bukowski at his best.

air and light and time and space

”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have a place and the time to

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses

The family dog: Always happy to see me walk into the room.

70 thoughts on “What do you need to create?

  1. bwahahaha! I thought you were taking that dog to a shrink – or maybe an exorcist. Has it occurred to you Mark that you may not be able to make it to the local 7-11 but you just circulated your wisdom over the entire globe from Walla Walla to Tashkent and all points in between (including Ottawa)? And fine wisdom it is too. I’ve known a few naturally creative people and they will create regardless of where they are or what the circumstances – much like yourself – under the threat of a ferocious hell-hound in your own living room waiting to rip out your throat ( or your left ankle, whichever it can reach); whilst a ciivization destroying storm tears the underbelly from your world; while surrounded by attention draining accomplices; while being denied your God-given and inalienable right to slave for the 9-5 warlords; while wearing your slippers and robe; while being imprisioned in your own home by an unrelenting natural disaster with only a few precious hours of life giving sustenance remaining.

    Ahhh, the tortures of creativity – it knows no master. But you really gotta get that dog into therapy.

    ha! Happy snow day man!

    • Man, that dog and I are going to come to an understanding one way or the other. Do you see the way I jump when she first barked? Watch it again. That’s the problem. She knows I’m afraid to be bit. Again, I might add. We had a ‘dog therapy’ session planned (God, I want to barf) but we had to cancel and reschedule. I might cancel it all together. Criminy, $300! I don’t have that kind of scratch to lay out! What have I gotten myself into THIS TIME?

      That Bukowski is the best. You should familiarize yourself with his work. You’d like it, I’m sure.

  2. Often you can tell the posts that take time — yours are always so beautifully written …

    As a teen and early 20s I was pretty creative, but worked writing incredibly dry stuff. It’s taken me years to get the dust out. So I am a rejuvenated creative person. Working on it, anyway!

    • Thank you for saying that. I’ll be honest with you–I write a post and then go back and cut, cut, cut until it’s pared right down to the bone. I don’t like bloat and that’s what I cough up in the first draft. A lot of boat. I like doing it. Editing isn’t torture for me. It’s fun. It’s like a treasure hunt for crap.

      • That’s how I work at work. Crap out, then tailored, trimmed, refined.

        My blog posts used to be that way — my old ones are really quite good writing. Nowadays? Not so much. Some of that is getting the hang of it; some is laziness!

  3. This is fantastic. The perfect read for when we’re making excuses for why we’re not writing (or painting, or whatever the case may be). Off to Twitter to share it. Enjoy your snowbound status.

    • Thanks, Carrie. Do you know much about Bukowski’s work? That guy has been with me since I was 19 and his stuff is as fresh and relevant today as it was back then. Not many artists have that kind of staying power. Vonnegut is a genius but I don’t really read him much anymore. I used to listen to those old Rush albums but now? Not so much. The Impressionists are great but I’ve branched out to the abstract expressionists and Cubists. But Bukowski? Same impact. Same.

  4. He forgot to add: “you’re going to create if you share your home with a snarling mutt who wants to chew your nutsack to shreds”. Bukowski sounds like a tormented artist who assumes all other artists must be like him.

    • He had a crappy life and was surrounded by crappy people. It’s no wonder he developed those assumptions. Later in his career, Bukowski wrote poems about achieving success late in life and driving a BMW. But he always remembered the awfulness that was his childhood and (mostly) adulthood.

    • Ross, that’s friggin’ hilarious. Where do you get this stuff from?

      Never mind its air and light and time. My foot is going to be in it’s… awww… who am I kidding? I can’t touch that dog. The daughters would disown me.

  5. That’s one of the many things we have in common. A profound love of Bukowski.

    I don’t know why I’m not offended by his misogyny. I think when I love the body of someone’s work, as a whole, I cut them a LOT of slack.

    I feel like this poem is directed right at me. I have a million excuses not to write. I’m snowed in today, and I have to clean the house, and balance my checkbook, and go through all the mail, and and and

    Your posts ARE like bottles of good wine. And while I would never suggest to anyone that they ever publish as infrequently as I do, those blogs that publish every day? I find them stressful and overwhelming. The quality of the material is way too uneven. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow.

    • Do you see the beauty of his work? He reaches inside out heads and pulls out our unattractive truths. That poem means something to us because it IS us!

      I can read every day. No disrespect to anyone who can drum up that much material, but I just can’t.

      Thank you for the compliment. Typically, I don’t do this sort of thing but I would encourage you to read the post prior to this one. Another stumble down the dark Lower East Side alley of memory lane.

  6. Do I see the beauty of his work? Um, yeah! He’s my go-to when I’m blocked. There’s something about the way he crafts his poems…

    Actually, it’s partly the lean nature of them. I’m wordy, the way you’re NOT. Bukowski says only the minimal amount to convey his thoughts. But I don’t get the idea he had to edit to get that result. I believe he thought like that. Minimalist. I could be wrong. I often am.

    Headed to the other post now. Am I going to get all verklempt from reading it???

    • One of the beauty of his work is its accessibility. I have a friend who taught English to first-year college students and he said he couldn’t teach Bukowski because it’s all there on the surface and there’s nothing to explore. But he didn’t say it in a disparaging way. Do you know who else writes clean? Hemingway. Raymond Carver. Dashiel Hammett, George Orwell and Elmore Leonard. Pretty good company.

      • you forgot Steinbeck… and you know who writes dirty? Celine, Burroughs, Pynchon, Henry Miller… not bad company either… I lean towards the dirty a bit but every so often i flirt with the clean.

      • Celine is a big one! I can’t believe I forgot him. I read his Journey to the End of the Night in my formative years and it had a big impact on me. Being able to appreciate it made me think that perhaps I wasn’t so thick after all.

  7. So much truth to this one. It’s funny. Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something today. I’ve read a couple things today that speak about this…making excuses, how you just need to do it, and now Bukowski’s poem. I love that sentence “baby, air and light and time and space” when he pulls it all in, and his title to his poem. People have this notion that to create is to be inspired and that there is some glamour to it. I don’t think that for a second. It’s facing a blank page and dealing it with it. Great share!

    That is your little dog?! I think he would tear me to pieces or is he just all fluff? I hope you’re enjoying your snow day. Stay safe and warm!

    • It’s those universal truths, man. They go right to your gut. That’s what a great author does. Bukowski does that a lot (for me).

      That dog is savage only to me. If she ever growled at my daughters or wife like that she’d be a projectile into the neared snow drift.

      I liked my snow day! I didn’t bathe.

  8. Bukowski- there are 2 plumbing bros in my town named Bukowski. I am sorry Mark, but I just do not dig/ dog what I call abstract writings. But the message is a good one and you should take it to heart. You need to be putting those journals into a book. You have the talent. Now a good start would be for your wife to give you a kick. Maybe?

    Now about the dog. Did you pay attention to what I wrote a few comments back? When I get the energy I’ll send another comment. You will not need a dog therapist to teach you how get along with the dog. Scratch therapy and I did not intend a pun. 🙂

    • The beauty of the Bukowski’s poetry is that he doesn’t deal in abstractions. Some academics look down your nose at that, but I prefer to think it’s clean and accessible. More like vertical sentences than following the rules of verse.

      I did heed your advice about the dog. I give her treats and feed her when I can but my wife is the primary caregiver. That can’t be helped. I’m at work all day. We rescheduled the dog therapy session and I might just cancel it altogether. It’s so much money!

  9. Bukowski nailed it with this one, Mark.

    Besides the want-to, another powerful motivator is the need-to. One of the most frightening parts of my previous job was when I had to write that concert review at the venue on my lap in the dark holding a pen flashlight in my teeth with the crowd surging around me and music still blaring to make my deadline and I knew if I screwed up a detail or a fact or an observation or messed up grammatically, some wise guy in a wise ass way was going to nail me in the comments section unmercifully. But that was also one of the best parts of my previous job because it conditioned me to want to write like my saniity depended on it no matter the place or conditions.

    I write on my blog every day, and am quite different from your style. And so I admire your sanctity and spareness of words and pacing and style, and unflinching devotion to art and soul. You’re fearless intellectually. Except when it comes to that 3-year-old dog …

    • The need to write extends beyond career responsibilities. I have tried to stop blogging a few times. I usually make it about three or four weeks at the most and then I come clawing back. I think that’s what Bukowski is referring to when he talks about The irrelevance of your environment. You’re going to find a way to do it even when you don’t think you want to.

      Everybody knows it’s a fact: if you want to become a better writer, then WRITE. (And read.) By posting every day, you’re exercising that muscle.

      • The absolute fear of that deadline and time constrant and freaking crazy environment made me a better writer, too. It wasn’t that it was my job, not all of it, anyway, Mark. I think a bigger part of it was the great adrenaline rush that came in those situations that increased my focus and concentration and made me think when I read my review the the next morning sometimes, holy crap, I wrote THAT in 15 minutes!

  10. Fuckin’ Hank… he was no bullshit and all bullshit all at the same time… but like the tombstone says, Don’t Try, pretty zen for a drunk guy from L.A.

    • Bukowski wrote thousands of poems and some of them just sit there all drunk and bloated but this on really has spark, doesn’t it? I was thumbing through some of his old books while the snow fell and I flipped to this. Right the the truth of it.

  11. I agree with Bukowski, somewhat. If you really want to create, you will find the time and space and air. Personally, I tend to write more (“more” being at least once a week) when my brain is already stressed at work – but after a certain point of overwork the creative instinct simply shuts off.

  12. I hear that… man, I feel that. Life is so bloody busy… I have three little ones scampering about, a massively-demanding corporate shit-job, and then everything else too. But if I had more time, I would waste it. I know I would. I’m like that, wasteful when I’m comfortable. Right now, I squeeze in writing in one-hour blocks, usually before work starts or before the kids wake up on the weekends, and it’s amazing how the world turns on you when you’re alone like that, when you have a finite amount of time, and you just start – because that’s all the time you got. Whatever comes out, comes out. I am a zen master of excuses, but they’re unsatisfying now. Just give me a few moments, anything pretty much will do, and I’ll make something, even if it’s crap. Still, weirdly, I love that feeling of compression.

    • I don’t want to lather your ass because I know you don’t need it, but I consider your posts to be some of the more complex that I read. I imagine them taking quite a bit of time to formulate. I’m thinking a few sessions before the apple is properly polished.

      I wake up at 4:50, get the 5:20 bus and am in the city at 6:30. I’m not due at my desk until 8:00. Why do I arrive so early? Because that’s my air and light and time and space to create. After that, there’s someone in my face until bedtime.

      • Ass-lathering not required, trust me. I wish I had time to put into my stuff, but they never take much time because I don’t have that much time. They’re quick, they have to be. But like I said, if I had more time, I’d probably do less… however that works.

        Good on you for that schedule, I’m the same way. I get in early to get out early… sometimes, that even works.

  13. I needed to read this today. I have gone from blogging every day, out of habit or necessity to keep from doing something I shouldn’t, to “eh” in a matter of weeks. I miss writing every day but I also don’t always want to be the bloggy equivalent of a vending machine snack.

    • Blogging frequency is a matter of personal preference. There are no rules to this game. If you’ve got so much bottled-up inside that you need to get it out there or you’ll explode, then hit the keyboard. There will be “eh” periods as well. Blogging isn’t static. It’s a moving target. A tide that ebbs and flows.

  14. Buk’s right. When i sit down and try to write, or paint, or create anything, it usually either doesn’t happen, or it sucks. But when something is stuck inside, knocking around, distracting me, and i finally get to my computer (or whatever it is i’m trying to do), then it just starts coming up, like one giant loogie, and i can’t stop it…. fortunately, i have learned (mostly) to go back and edit a day later to make sure it’s at least reasonably coherent.

    that dog? that dog is an asshole dog. i don’t like that dog because that nasty little yappy shitty dog has ruined you for all of the great dogs out there who would just love you until you were covered in slobber and affection. seriously. get the dog some therapy, and maybe invest in a shock collar. every time the dog is an asshole, you can jack him up on some electrons. it will either correct the behavior or make him meaner, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of shocking the shit out of him.

    • Have you ever tried to stop blogging? I have. It’s a nuisance. It takes up a lot of my free time. But I seem to be incapable of quitting. We both have the same person to blame for this tragic state of affairs. He was doing it early on and I though he was daft. Now look at us. He’s moved on and we’re still plugging away. Kind of a dirty trick.

      I do have an asshole dog. We had a doggy therapist appointment but we had to cancel because of a scheduling conflict. I can’t say I’m all that enthusiastic about rescheduling. It’s a lot of money. Do you know what’s cheaper than a therapy session? One of those fancy shock collars. Maybe I’ll get one with diamonds and pearls.

      • i did stop – after the family reunion, when i thought i’d worked through all the crap i needed to work through. had to write again about a month later when a good friend shot himself. the words just came up, and i couldn’t quit. yeah, i blame our blogfather… i’m going to see him (i hope) for a day in June. Cruising through Barcelona, and can’t wait to see him again!

      • No way! You are so lucky. He’s the best, isn’t he? I wish that he and L were still a part of my life but they are long gone out of it.

        I wish I could cruise through Barcelona. Hell, at this point, I’ll take a cruise to Akron.

      • it’s the one big vacation this year… lots of fun little ones thrown in, but doing the cruise will eat up a lot of vacation. looking forward to seeing B, and hopeful for an L sighting as well!

  15. You’re going to create, blind, crippled, demented…great words. You always think you need a space of your own to develop. As he was describing the big, lofty space I was thinking, “Yeah…that’s just what I’ve always wanted…that would make all the difference.” Would it though? Not really. If you are a creator it can’t help but spew out.

    • I don’t think it would make a difference in the long run but that doesn’t mean it’s wouldn’t be nice to have. Are you kidding? I would LOVE a nice secluded, brightly lit room to create in. Instead, I’m stuck in this ruddy coffee shop with–not joking–a madman having a psychotic episode on one the other side of the room and someone with the flu hacking away at the other. Who needs this noise?

  16. I have droughts and then downpours on the posting front… bit like anything creative. I’ve hardly written anything in a year – well over a year – on the guitar. Noodle here, half a rift there, great chord which just can’t seem to suggest the next one to land on, interesting fiddling in altered tuning with a partial capo… which then leads me to think “Pretentious tosser! Right something using only I IV and V!”… That is how it flows… or gushes… or dries up completely…. that is my river, stream, drybed of creativity

    • I was actually wondering how this sort of thing affected you as a musician. I suppose you can’t manufacture the desire to pick up an alternately-tuned guitar any more than you can force yourself to post. Enthusiasm cannot be manufactured at all. It’s either there or it isn’t. Too bad it’s not a switch that can be flicked on and off at will. That’d be convenient as hell.

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