The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k: Writer’s Edition

Can you guess which audiobook I listened to this month?

Mark Manson and his million billion incarnates (read: copycats) have it right, even if their message is too crass and gross for innocent or petulant ears. You’ve got to stop giving a fuck.

This doesn’t mean becoming a sociopath, superficially adopting the traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder crossed with extreme nihilism until you inevitably crash your stolen Mercedes Benz down a ravine after a thirteen hour police chase. It doesn’t mean dressing in trench-coats and fulfilling every media stereotype as you slowly withdraw from society, before your final evolution into a dormant sentient boulder.

It’s about giving a fuck about what matters most to you and giving the finger—at least metaphorically—to everything else. If you’re on this blog, that’s probably related to writing and writing accessories. You’re a writer, poet, novelist, aspiring author. Writing matters to us. Other things matter, naturally: only the sociopath of the last paragraph would sacrifice their second child for their work-in-progress (WIP). But this isn’t an either/or. Life isn’t black-and-white like a lot of extremists on the internet would have you think. What you give a fuck about is on a sliding scale, some more important than others, but still important enough to give more than a single fuck about.

It’s about getting out of the high school mindset. Even though “whoa-oh, high school never ends”, as wise twirling-beards Bowling For Soup astutely put it, we don’t need to stay in the high school mindset decades or centuries (for all you lich out there) after we left those metaphorical four walls behind. Even if you’re in high school, you can still read these words and take them into account: you probably won’t listen; in high school, everything matters…until you graduate.

In this mindset, we spend so much time worrying what people think—and anyone with anxiety knows it intensifies tenfold—we never get around to doing anything. We think and think and think and worry some more, all for one thing: What will others think? Will they hate what I write? Will agents and publishers set my submission alight and throw a party over my manuscript’s charred remains? Will they rename July 31 Bonfire of Hypothetical Author’s Shit Manuscript Day? And then you’re in a daydream about hypothetical publishing houses destroying this labour of love you’ve laboured over with love and sweat and tears…and you’re still not doing anything. You’re giving a fuck about all the wrong things. Maybe now you’re angry at all the f-bombs in this blog post and, guess what, you’re giving a fuck about something…the wrong thing.

Mark Manson’s message may have some harsh language, but he delivers some harsh truths, and there’s a reason his book was so successful and spawned so many sycophantic successors. Try saying that ten times fast. Blame my latest WIP. I know it’s difficult to recognise. It’s easier to give a fuck about all the wrong things; at least that’s what our betraying brains desperately tell us. There’s a quote from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck that stayed with me enough I paused the audiobook to type out the line:

Why do you care I’m dead when you’re so afraid to live?

Manson’s acquaintance just committed suicide at a party they both attended, and he’d been wracked with guilt and worry over his pal’s death, until his friend “spoke” to him in a dream and uttered those twelve words. Why are you so afraid to do anything? Everyone’s former favourite author J.K. Rowling said it similarly: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default”, has a similar message. Fear to act is still an action. It’s choosing to fail, and if that f-word doesn’t lull you out of a false sense of security…

Here are some of the key points I paraphrased from Manson’s words:

  • “Do something” as your only metric for success
  • Do something, anything, harness the reaction to motivate self into doing something
  • 200 crappy words per day
  • Free to failure
  • Tell truth, don’t be scared

Do something, write those 200 crappy words a day. “Who gives a goshd*rned h*ck what folks think?” turns into the affirmative “Who give a fuck if it’s absolute shit?” Make your inner voice an Aussie bogan if the words are uncomfortable to your inner dialogue.

Once you write those 200 crappy words a day, it’ll turn into 40,000 crappy words, which you’ll edit to sound slightly less sucky, before finally going “Fuck it”, and you submit the full WIP to publishers, agents, or you say “fuck that” and go the traditional self-publishing route. Listen to yourself, meditate and reflect on it, and decide what you think is worth giving a fuck about.

The truth is, nobody really gives a fuck about what you’re doing, what you look like or who you are… Live your best life, seriously…don’t subscribe to the whole ‘life is short’ idiom because…life is actually bloody long, this shit takes ages, so why spend it miserable?

—Antonia Bernardin

Who cares what everyone else thinks? Something something 500 years ago everyone believed the earth was flat. Even if your writing is truly groundbreakingly awful, why should that stop you? E.L. James had a successful career off objectively bad writing. I’ve bought two books in a series by an author who wouldn’t know good writing if it bashed her over the head with an Oxford Dictionary/On Writing mammoth omnibus, but I unironically became obsessed with the series. Chances are you’re probably not objectively terrible. Stop playing into the black-and-white mentality. Just write those 200 crappy words or that crappy query letter and just let it be.

Whatever you prefer to say: feck, heck, frick; it’s time to stop giving a f**k.

2 comments

  1. antoniabernardinblog · July 31, 2021

    Yea! Definitely on the vibe. Can’t tell you how much the ‘fuck it, just write’ attitude has helped me.

    I’ve never heard of this book however but it sounds right up my street, it’s on the wish list now though and I look forward to reading it, thank you!

    • Jessica Grixti Stanley · August 2, 2021

      Fuck yeah! Glad you liked my post. Your blog popped up in my recommendations and I like what you’re writing, so keep it up. Manson’s book was huge a few years back, but it’s got a good message 😊

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