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Finding Inspiration in Charles Bukowski

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

By: Ludmila Filipova

Inspiration comes and goes. Good ideas often come very unexpectedly, and it is quite hard to get your mind trained to see the creative opportunities around you. Practice helps, of course, and sometimes it's good to get inspiration from the work of others. I've learned a lot from history too, including the work of none other than the maestro of literature, Charles Bukowski. His texts are short, yet powerful, just as good copy should be. Here’s what inspired me. I hope it can inspire you too.

Who was Charles Bukowski? Harold Norse commented on Charles Bukowski with the following words: “Before five, he was a lamb, full of shyness and guilt. After the five, however, there was a hurtful mocking in Bukowski's voice and his aim was to destroy the others…. He was never tired of boastful bragging, attracting attention to himself. His competitive spirit, arrogance, and masculine pose of stiff boyhood were repulsive… I think his eyes got their color from envy and jealousy.”

We can now only guess what was Bukowski really like. However, the quote captures perfectly his complicated personality. He wasn’t easy to get along with, and he was everything but virtuous. A notorious alcoholic, misogynist and womanizer, he was a physical reflection of his work - raw and rude, yet comforting and extremely lively. People especially appreciate the raw form of his work. He tore down literary boundaries, wrote about life as it is and wasn’t afraid to use vulgarities. His personality was human, and his work doesn’t impose any ideals; life isn’t always filled with unicorns and rainbows, after all. Authenticity, which many writers try to imitate, was the main element of his work.

“Be authentic!” is today’s mantra of advertising. In a 2019 survey done by German researchers Becker, Wiegand and Reinartz, 87% of global consumers said they consider it more important for companies to be authentic than to innovate (72%) or deliver unique products (17%). Consumers want to know what brands they support and what those brands stand for. They expect relatable situations and relatable messages, written in a relatable language. There is no space for embellished cliche phrases or empty words. Just look at this campaign by Oasis from 2015. It is bold, relatable and yet refreshingly honest! And it was well-received, too.

So what can we learn from Charles Bukowski? We can learn that sometimes, authenticity combines the good and the bad, and the bad shouldn’t be forcefully hidden. And the writing? Bukowski once wrote that he discovered the secret of writing, which he summarized in a short phrase: “The secret is in the sentence.” You don’t need a complicated marketing strategy or structure. Successful writing relies on each sentence. Write as if you were writing that one sentence only. Think about it, love the words and use them carefully. It is not about being fast; it’s about writing something that will be immortal. As David Ogilvy once said, “The client remembers excellent work; years later he forgets it was delivered two months after the deadline.” Be authentic in your writing and don’t be discouraged by the daunting amount of text you have to write for the social media platforms or the outdoor advertisements. Take your time, and put effort into every sentence. And when you have a break, maybe open one of Bukowski’s books to get even more inspired.


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