Brain Pickings

Charles Bukowski on the Ideal Conditions and Myths of Creativity, Illustrated


“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 for.”

Charles Bukowski — man of outrageous daily routine, curious creature of proud cynicism and self-conscious sensitivity, occasional pessimist with a heartening view of the meaning of life — had a singular way of conveying immutable wisdom in his seemingly simple, often crude, but invariably expressive verses. His 1992 poem “air and light and time and space,” found in the altogether fantastic anthology The Last Night of the Earth Poems (public library), is a poignant and soulful reminder that “inspiration is for amateurs” and grit is the real key to creativity — or, as Tchaikovsky famously put it, “a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.”


”– 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

Now, Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils — who have previously illustrated such cultural treasures as Bill Watterson’s timeless commencement address on creative integrity have adapted Buk’s beautiful poem into one of their signature comics:

Complement with Buk illustrated by the great R. Crumb.

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