Charles Bukowski on quitting his day job & doing what he loved.

{Charles Bukowski}

“To not have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.” ~ Charles Bukowksi

Do you think you’re too old to rewrite your story?

Before turning into troubled writer and, according to Time, a “laureate of American lowlife,” Charles Bukowski was a 49-year old post office clerk.

The following could also be a transcript of your life.

In 1969, publisher John Martin, founder of Black Sparrow Press, offers Bukowski $100 a month during the rest of his life, in exchange for quitting his job and taking up writing. Bukowski listens and two years later, Bukowski’s first book, Post Office, sees the light.

From then on, Bukowski writes voraciously for the next twenty years, until his death. His legacy amounts to thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books.

In 1986, he writes John Martin recalling his escape from the slavery he had resigned himself to, before taking his life in his hands.

Quoted from Reach for the Sun, vol. 3 ~ Charles Bukowski’s Selected Letters.



Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.

You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:

“I put in 35 years…”

“It ain’t right…”

“I don’t know what to do…”

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

yr boy,






More Self-Authored Jobs: 

>> Writing Lab: “If it doesn’t come bursting out of you.” ~ Charles Bukowski

>> Do the crazy thing. Be the author of your life.




{See you on the Park Bench?}



P.S. Sign up for my Museletter for FREE creative resources, soulful life tips & game-changing inspiration. 


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Andrea Balt
Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Rebelle Society, Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness & Professional Dream Chaser at Creative Rehab. Unfinished book with a love for greens, bikes and poetry; raised by wolves & adopted by people; not trying to make art but to Be Art. Holds a BA in Journalism & Mass Communication, an MFA in Creative Writing & a Holistic Health Coach degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. In her work she tries to reflect the wholeness of the human experience by combining Art & Health + Mind & Body + Darkness & Brilliance into a more alive, unabridged and unlimited edition of ourselves. She is also on a quest to reinstate Creativity as one of our essential Human Rights to (hopefully and soon) be included in the UN Declaration. Connect with her in the Social Media Jungle via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and sign up for her FREE MuseLetter.


  • Mamaste
    Mamaste commented on October 29, 2012 Reply
    Is this a sign from the universe? I am very close. Thank you Rebelle, you have very sharp intuition. ~Mamaste
  • Stefanie commented on October 30, 2012 Reply
    Thank you Rebelles. And thank you Mr. Bukowski. I am where you were. A slave. I am not ready to give the next 40 years to someone who might cackle at my misery. Someone who would hold my paycheck tight in his hand and ask me if I worked hard enough for this money and if I think I deserve it. I don’t deserve that. I deserve more and I deserve to not be miserable five days a week. Fear of the unknown is frightening, but fear of the same is terrifying.
    • Tracy Wisneski
      Tracy Wisneski commented on May 30, 2013 Reply
      Beautifully put.
  • fortheintolerants commented on October 30, 2012 Reply
    Rebelle has a canny knack for channelling universal “signs.” This is brilliant, as was Bukowski. Thanks for a great post! x
  • Peter Yates commented on December 14, 2012 Reply
    human race needs a critical mass to refuse slavery
  • Jennifer commented on February 13, 2013 Reply
    Yes yes yes. This is very inspiring.
  • Mushk Hoor commented on February 13, 2013 Reply
    it is hard to give up the addiction of slavery but once you do your life becomes a happy child. lucky are those who gave up.
  • SR Atchley
    SR Atchley commented on February 14, 2013 Reply
    Break free from the chains! Great post…love Bukoswski. But I’m a sucker for a low life…living life outside of other peoples’ terms is just another means of breaking free. Rebelles unite!
  • Arun Ks commented on April 6, 2013 Reply
    Life is more and its never too late to start over to have it.Inspiring
  • Tracy Wisneski
    Tracy Wisneski commented on May 30, 2013 Reply
    Like so much I have the honor of reading here, I really needed this.
  • Alison Nappi
    Alison Nappi commented on August 12, 2013 Reply
    I never get tired of this letter, no matter how many times I read it. Buk, I know you got a bad rap but you had a lot of shit right on, baby.
  • Special K commented on August 28, 2013 Reply
    I am so glad I found the Rebelle website and the kindred spirits who live here. Finally I am hearing other people speak to the things that have lurked inside me unspoken for so long. Somehow, I’ve been a fan of Bukowski’s for many years but never read this particular letter, which is crazy because it iterates so many things I’ve often felt, but have been unable to voice, over the past 15 to 20 years. My struggle has taken place against the backdrop of white-collar purgatory rather than the blue-collar hell that Bukowski describes, but no matter where you are, if you don’t belong there and you can’t figure out how to escape, that’s hell… Over the past year, I’ve slowly wriggled closer and closer to escape, but now may be the time to take that final leap of faith and free myself. Thank you, Hank!! Thank you fellow rebelles!!!
  • Zofia Cartlidge
    babybird commented on September 24, 2013 Reply
    ‘To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself’ Inspiring words Thank you.
  • freedmania commented on October 9, 2013 Reply
    Personally, I’ve long intended to be sane by the time I die. It’s proving to be a bitch, but I persevere. You help. Thanks.
  • Amanda commented on February 25, 2014 Reply
    Bloody brilliant … Freak’n LOVE this ❤
  • alivewithtony commented on March 20, 2014 Reply
    Leave the system as it is and withdraw the breathe of its air just one person at a time … unfortunately that means you! Get out now, ALONE!
  • Erica Croucher commented on April 18, 2014 Reply
    Reading this today….on a day that I am breaking out of the system that want’s me dumb, obedient, trapped…..I’m applying to start school in a month….I’m 40 yrs old and have been sitting on a free ride from the military for years, afraid of life……….FEAR GO THE F”’ AWAY!!!!!!!
  • Margit commented on August 3, 2014 Reply
    Nice share! Did not know that he worked up to 49 in post office, etc…
  • Sumit commented on February 3, 2015 Reply
    He’s got some great ones. I esp. like “Bluebird” — here’s a stanza:there’s a bliuebrd in my heart thatwants to get outbut I’m too tough for him,I say, stay in there, I’m not goingto let anybody seeyou.
  • life insurance quotes commented on March 15, 2015 Reply
    That’s the thinking of a creative mind
  • Nhu commented on May 25, 2015 Reply
    I read this before at some point. Bookmarked it. Passed by it today and decided, ” I’ll read this later…” And then you re-post it like a sign for me, going through this question constantly, telling myself “Be me, don’t be a slave to the system, break free!” But I don’t, another day passes, and more complaints piles up. When I see so many people unhappy with what they have, including myself, we already reach the bottom, why not start at the bottom and work my way up something I want even if I don’t know what that may be?
  • commented on May 25, 2015 Reply
    I did it four years ago. I set myself free. I quit my job at 29 after four years knowing it is killing me slowly inside. I felt numb. Dead. Dried out. I didn’t know the next step. I just new i had to get out…four years later I am a dance studio owner. I am doing something I never thought I would be capable of doing, since I have never thought of myself as a dancer…but when i was in that dark place of not knowing the outcome…i new the only thing that will keep me sane is doing something i loved. So i danced. I danced my heart out. And people started to ask me could they dance beside me…and slowly I had more and more people around me to whom I shared my love with.. and thats what i do for the last two years. It’s hard sometimes…sometimes post office seems soothing and like a nice rest…but at the end of the day, my heart is full..and I’m more alive than I ever was. If you’re thinking about it~do it! ♥

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