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On Writing Like a Motherfucker*

here's my morning joe, super creamy, hold the sugar, but not the Sugar.

here’s my morning joe, super creamy, hold the sugar, but not the Sugar.

I’ve read and heard a lot of writers talk about their relationship with a particular talisman–I forget who has a mug with Gold Letters that spell Writer across it. Some of my friends paste quotations in their writing spaces. Some writers advise the utmost in tidiness, a veritable sensory vacuum, or discomfort, or writing with the lights off, or writing with your back to the monitor, or writing at a treadmill desk.

I’m not overly superstitious, nor am I overly tidy, so This Mug, which I advised you to buy on Monday, has helped me get back on the express line to my draft. I got derailed a bit just before AWP. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got pages due on Saturday.

It’s okay to get derailed, as long as you remember–sooner rather than later–to get back to writing like a motherfucker.

Strayed & Bassist

To catch you up: Write Like a Motherfucker is a mantra that originated on the Rumpus column “Dear Sugar.”

*It does not escape me, the misogyny inherent in the word Motherfucker, but it strikes me as meaningful especially for that reason, and readable as a colloquailism whose meaning would be more aptly conveyed as “badass” or “person (male or female) of particular bravado.”

Sugar = Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, some other books, once secretly a Rumpus advice columnist, and probably a million other things, too.

Write like a motherfucker is what she advised Elissa Bassist to do. Bassist is a New York dwelling woman writer who wrote to Sugar saying, “how do women become the writers they want to be?”

You can read all about it in the most recent issue of Creative Nonfiction, or online, if you’re cheap or broke.

There, Strayed & Bassist’s conversation is a beacon of hope for writers of both genders: encouraging and witty and funny and warm and delicious, a hamlet of surety–to my mind–that women writers will not always be considered twee and lesser, just because they have vaginae.

Twee is a word I learned at AWP. Go on, look it up. At first I thought the woman who said it was being onomatopoeic. But then I whipped out my M-W app & was assured that she was not.

The most important thing to do is to write. Write like a motherfucker.

I can tell you that I’ve been writing like a motherfucker, the most mothers fucked I’ve ever written like, since January.

I have churned out 160 Manuscript pages (mostly nonfiction, some fiction), maybe 50 of these are recycled or expanded material.

I do not say this to brag. I say this because I have written loads and loads of stuff since I was a small child, so I have always written like a motherfucker by most people’s standards. If I had all of my journals from forever, they would probably stand in a stack to my chest. I can’t imagine the stack of paper if I printed everything I’ve written, every draft I’ve revised.

Now, I’m writing like a motherfucker to my standards. And mine are the only ones that matter.

My point is that you can always up your game.

So however much time you spend writing now, double it. Then double that. But don’t freak out if you get off the track a little bit, or if you have to take a day off. Take it, then get back to it.

Remind yourself, as often as you have to, to Write Like a Motherfucker.

Get the T-shirt, or a mug. A talisman. Or clean your writing space till it looks like an ascetic monk lives there. If you write best when you’re doing a yoga pose, do that. If you need to engineer a device by which you can hang by your feet from the ceiling, do that. If you love those quiet morning hours as I do, before everybody starts to need you, get up early.

Any writers reading want to share their talismans or rituals? Advice? Words to the wise?

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