A Poet’s Secret: How to Succeed in Life

Person rock climbing

Bukowski, one of the most widely read poets in the world, a craftsman of language, left behind only two words on his tombstone: “Don’t try.”

I got this same advice from my creative writing teacher (who has also passed): “Stop trying so hard, Cliff!”

I think of his words often.

It’s great advice.

When I’m struggling to write something, I’ll invoke the spirit of Morse Hamilton, throw up my hands and say “Stop trying so hard, Cliff!”

This is real frustration folks. When I reach this point, I’m out of ideas. I got nothin,’ which is why I have to leave. And really leave. Ain’t no fakin’. I’m out. I’m done.

And often, right at this moment, something strange begins to happen.

As I’m walking away, I’ll lean over my desk chair to type out some notes so I can pick up where I left off, and then my arms will hurt from the angle so I’ll sit down to finish my thoughts, and then, before I know it, I’ve been writing for twenty minutes and cranking out some beautiful shit.

That poet guy and my writing teacher, they were onto something.

When you force something out, instead of just allowing it to come, it’s not going to come out completely intact. It will show up assembled rather than birthed.

And you, the creator, the wisher, will be resentful, will have wrinkles.

Better to give up, to walk away, to let go of the wishes, and reward yourself with being surprised.