Anyone who knows me knows I have respect for Charles Bukowski. His passion. His vulgarity. His cool way of stringing together words and creating masterpieces you almost have to read through quickly for fear of the poetry reaching the darkest, untouched corners of your psyche.
So it’s to no one’s surprise that I live by something he said. Two little, simple words:
Bukowski is known for great work, all rugged, raw and real; appropriately reflective of the man. But I find that the more of his work I read, the more his words take turns dusting off this philosophy, bringing clarity to the simple, seven letter tenet he threw into an old letter:
“Somebody asked me: ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.” – Charles Bukowski
When questioning the validity or authenticity of anything – be it a relationship, a philosophy or a business strategy – I often find that simplicity is vital. If it’s too complicated, it doesn’t work. It hasn’t been narrowed down. It hasn’t been thought through well enough. There are likely to be holes and passageways for error to seep in. Simplicity is key – always. And you cannot come to a concept as simple as “don’t try.”
And we try so goddamn hard. We stay in broken relationships and try to make it work. We sit at our desks staring at empty screens and those incessant, blinking carets, trying to convince ourselves whatever we go on to write will become a worthy read. We try to get people to notice. We try to get people to care. We try to do whatever we have the power to control, because we’re in control of our lives and letting go of the steering wheel is not an option.
I don’t think Bukowski ever held a firm grip on that steering wheel. This could all very well be an obnoxious romanticism with the man and the concept, but man, was he onto something.
Don’t try. Stop trying. Stop trying to make something happen that should happen naturally. Stop trying to force an attraction, a relationship, a masterpiece. I’m not saying don’t work your ass off to get to where you want to be in life. I’m not saying wait for some fickle form of fate to serve you at your request. Because you’ll honestly be waiting a very long time. But I am saying that all things organically designed in life are not things you should try for. I’m saying that if you’re forcing it, it’s probably not meant to be. I’m saying that working hard is necessary for all your surface-level needs: your job, your home, whatever material values you exalt. But those intimate cavities in your soul; the sensitivities in your heart, demanding of desire; the places from which passion is born and later fueled: don’t try to fill them.
Because you don’t try to be sexy; it comes from within. You don’t try to create; it comes from within. You don’t try to be a good, kind-hearted person, and you don’t try to love someone; it all comes from within. If you feel it, you have it inside you, under all the layers of your being. Don’t force it. Don’t try to draw it out because if it exists, it will come naturally. It will be organic. And to its very core: it will be real.
If you are a writer, you will write. If you are an artist, you will create. If you are a good person, you will be a good person. And if you are in love, you will love. You will be and do all of these things effortlessly. It will be genuine. It will be rugged, raw and real; appropriately reflective of whoever you were born to be.
Trying can complete a task, but it will never fulfill an insatiable need. It may be practical, but it will rarely be impassioned. I’m not saying to be careless. I’m not saying to get lazy. I’m saying to have some faith in what you’re capable of and just let it happen. I’m saying to stop trying, and just be.