Write like a Motherfucker


This is one of my new favourite things: Dear Sugar. Sugar is an impossibly awesome, yet endearingly sensible and practical agony aunt for The Rumpus. She swears a fair bit, but she’s real.

Dear Sugar: How to Write like a Motherfucker

This problem and answer speak of every single little fear and overwhelmingly crushing thought I have ever had about myself and my writing. I could have written the damn email myself (when I was 26).

Here are a few excerpts for Sugar’s brilliant repsonse to a woman’s worry she will never write her book:

At the time, I believed that I’d wasted my twenties by not having come out of them with a finished book and I bitterly lambasted myself for that. I thought a lot of the same things about myself that you do, Elissa Bassist. That I was lazy and lame. That even though I had the story in me, I didn’t have it in me to see it to fruition, to actually get it out of my body and onto the page, to write, as you say, with “intelligence and heart and lengthiness.” But I’d finally reached a point where the prospect of not writing a book was more awful than the one of writing a book that sucked. And so at last, I got to serious work on the book.

When I was done writing it, I understood that things happened just as they were meant to. That I couldn’t have written my book before I did. I simply wasn’t capable of doing so, either as a writer or a person. To get to the point I had to get to write my first book, I had to do everything I did in my twenties. I had to write a lot of sentences that never turned into anything and stories that never miraculously formed a novel. I had to read voraciously and compose exhaustive entries in my journals. I had to waste time and grieve my mother and come to terms with my childhood and have stupid and sweet and scandalous sexual relationships and grow up.

And also this:

Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.

******

So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.

Yours, Sugar

Anyway, finally, finally, I am, as Sugar suggests, “writing like a motherfucker”. I know have a glimmer of hope. My book won’t be terribly good by anyone’s standards, but at least it will be longer than the scraps of terrible paragraphs about lady things I have scribbled out over the years. The impulse to write a book, any book, to rip out this second beating heart, as she says, is far stronger now than not writing one.

The process of writing for me is now joyful because I am writing in a liberating genre with no expectations of greatness. I WILL write a book and it may be shit but I will not apologise for it. I may write another. I may even write a terribly good one some day. But Sugar is right; until now I have been neither the person nor the writer I needed to be in order to write it until now. I always wondered why the writing would just not come when I was younger and desperately wanted it to. When I had degrees in English Lit and loved books and was good at grammar and shit. I fretted because I wasn’t a top author under the age of 30 who was amazeballs.

In my late 20s I accepted I would never write a “good” novel. And although there was disappointment, there was also relief. I could admire novels and novelists from afar, but I wouldn’t be one. I’d be an average journalist with a few stories to tell and a scrapbook of clippings to show to (imaginary) children who’d be waaay proud their mother did something interesting once. I’d have a blog which wasn’t as funny or as good as those I admired. One day I might get something published on The Hairpin or write for the Guardian online. Those goals were not entirely impossible. I know writing my ‘novel’ will not be easy, but now I’m prepared to work at it, to ‘dig’ instead of talking about digging.

Perhaps things align when they are ready. The Kindle my mother bought me for Christmas, the medieval fantasy books my friend Joey recommended to me, the ending of my bestest relationship, the need to do something, the readiness to write, the experience of spending many years writing as a journalist, the finding of the right genre, the possibility of self-publishing on ebooks. I am ready now. And I can’t bloody stop. 16,000 words at last count, which, in itself, keeps me going every day. I simply HAVE to write it, because that’s a lot easier than NOT writing it. I’m getting rid of my second heartbeat, second by second, word by word.

And if just one person buys it for their Kindle when it is done, I will die happy.

PS, can someone buy me the “write like a motherfucker” mug that is sold on The Rumpus? I will only fill it with gin and use it as I write, promise.

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About ohhellwhatthehell

I like gin, mittens and otters, not necessarily in that order. Here's some stuff I felt like writing down when I'm not chained to a desk writing other things for a living. Please use caution when using this site; there may be sweary words, cute animals and general bullshit. Don't say I didn't fucking warn you.
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2 Responses to Write like a Motherfucker

  1. nic says:

    it’s like you’re blogging from inside my mind. great, now i don’t have to! (*ticks Start Blogging off boringly long mustdolist)

  2. I also so a great line in Having Other People’s Sex Dreams. Shall I have that one about that hot guy for you tonight?

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