Shut Up And Write (Or: “I Really Want To Be A Writer, But…”)
*waggles accusing finger*
Shut up and write.
No, no, I know. You just wrote me an email and in this email — like in so many other emails by so many other ‘aspiring’ writers — you informed me that you really want to be a writer, but. No, it doesn’t matter what follows after the but. Something about time. Or family. Or fear. Or lack of knowledge. Or lack of practice. Or bees. Or facebees. Or how your hands were gnawed off by winged, mutated piranha leaving you with those lumpy fish-chewed stumps.
I don’t care.
End of story.
Shut up shut up shut up.
Sure, yeah, some days it is fucking hard. Some days it feels like performing rectal surgery on a cantankerous bridge troll. Some days writing is running blindfolded through a maze made of pricker bushes. Writing is an act of creation, and creation is hard. It’s volcanic. Tumultuous. These creative atoms smash together clumsily, violently, destructively. You give something to get something with writing.
But also, it’s not that fucking hard.
C’mon, son. Really? Really? I mean, nobody’s asking you to send a man to Mars. You’re not tasked with desalinating an ocean or training a komodo dragon to cure ebola. Shit, I’m not even asking you to mop up some kid’s puke or wait tables at a five-star restaurant. Or a three-star. Or a fucking Hardee’s off the turnpike.
I’m saying, sludge yourself into the ass receptacle and peck keyboard keys like a hungry chicken until it makes words. Tap tap tap. Click click click. Or pick up one of the tools used by our distant ancestors — it is a tube filled with the liquid black souls of all the animals we’ve made extinct — and use this “pen” as a scribe would to etch scribbly heretical word-shapes onto dead tree pulp.
In other words: shut up and write.
Don’t talk about writing. Stop reading about writing. Don’t even come here. This place will be here later. When you’ve done the work. This blog isn’t meant to be your distraction — a warm pool in which to wade so you never have to swim out to the big bad scary ocean. It’s not here so you can feel productive and seem like a writer. Fuck that. No no no no no. You go write. Then you come back here. You gotta start first. Everything else is just masturbation. It’s fuck or walk time, hondo.
Shut up and write.
I really want to be a writer, but…
It’s on you. You wanna be a writer?
Ta-da! Zing! Bing! Bang! Boom.
The writer writes. The writer writes! THE WRITER WRITES.
Hell with aspiring.
To aspire is to expire.
But it’s scaaaaary, you say. Sure, sure, yes, it can be. That sacrificial component can be terrifying. It feels like exposing yourself — some kind of intellectual, creative nudity, like running through somebody else’s mind, naked. Stripped bare. To the skin. Maybe to the bone. What might you say? What might you reveal? Who are you? Who will read you?
I know! I do! And I still don’t jolly well fucking care! Shut up! It’s not like I’m shaking a box of wasps at you. The act of writing isn’t a bedroom closet stuffed full of eyeless clowns — the stink of greasepaint, the honking noses. We can slap whatever metaphors we want on the act: writing feels like jumping out of a plane, oh my oh my, and while that metaphor holds water, it still isn’t actually you jumping out of a plane, is it?
Nobody’s jumping out at you.
No sharks or animated scarecrows with pointy knives.
Write now, right now.
What’s that? You don’t have time?
Well, who fucking does? Everybody thinks writing is some happy horseshit anyway, and life does not automagically provide you with an allotment of hours in which to creatively dick around, so — welcome to the club. We’re all snatching minutes from the mouth of the beast.
Oh, oh, you’re afraid of rejection. Of course you are. I am too. I hate rejection. Who wants that? Who wants to be told no, this isn’t right, this isn’t good, this isn’t all there. But rejection is how you know you’re doing the work. Rejection means you’re putting words to paper and you’re throwing them out there for all the world to see. Rejection is your battle scars: proof of your fight in the arena. Nobody wants to fall down and go boom but falling down and going boom is how you learn not to fall next time. Or at least fall differently.
Or, is it that nobody respects that you wanna be a writer? Yeah, get used to that. You’d get more respect as a juggler hired out for children’s birthday parties. Who cares? Get shut of it. You’re not doing this for the glory. If this is just some fantasy, pinch off that artery right now. The fantasy of writing isn’t that glamorous, trust me. (If I turned on my webcam, you’d flinch and ask yourself, WHAT KIND OF MONSTER IS THAT HUNCHED OVER IN THE SICKLY GLOW OF A COMPUTER MONITOR OH MY GOD IT’S LIKE A FURRY BAG OF TRASH CAME ALIVE AND DECIDED TO BLOG — JESUS, GOD, THE EYES ARE HAUNTING, THE MOUTH IS HANGING OPEN, I CAN IMAGINE THE SMELL OF DEATH AND COFFEE.)
I want to be a writer, but.
And start writing.
You’re either writing, or you’re not. Stop obsessing over all the things that come later. Fuck publishing, marketing, audience, writing advice, writing blogs, tweets, reviews, book covers. This is a pure, untainted time between you and the manuscript. This is unfucked snow. So go, fuck that snow up. Write! Write. Create! Tell stories. Put it down. Carve something out of nothing — you’re given a wide and briny sea of pure imagination, so draw upon it.
I can do nothing for you if you’re not writing.
I can’t make you write.
I can’t puppet your indolent, inactive hands.
I can yell and kick and flail and flounce.
But all this is on you.
Shut up and write. Right now. Literally. Leave this page, go and open a notebook or a word processing program or grab a Sharpie and turn the pale flesh of your left arm skyward and start writing. Write 100 words, bare fucking minimum. No, I don’t care what, though it’s probably better if you aim for something, if you have a purpose in mind — but even if you don’t? Who cares. Pluck those words out of the dark like catching fireflies — fling them into your jar and admire their glow. And then, if you can manage it, write 100 more. And 100 more after that. As many as you can write today and then some. Push! Bite the belt. Swig the whiskey. Grit your teeth so hard you can feel the enamel crack. You’re not lifting a car off somebody.
Point your fingers downward and fling words into reality.
HACK IT OUT.
Then: stop and be proud.
Crush doubt beneath your boot-heel because you’re doing it. You’re writing.
Cackle. Go ahead: cackle. Like a supervillain.
I SAID CACKLE, GODDAMNIT.
And then tomorrow?
Do the same thing.
Don’t tweet about writing. Don’t read this blog. Don’t opine about writing or give writing advice or worry about who will publish your book or oh god will you self-publish or will you find an agent and how will you weather all that rejection and will your book cover just be some girl in leather pants with half-a-buttock turned toward the reader no — stop, quit that shit, stomp that roach, cut those thoughts and those actions right off at the knees.
Tomorrow, write more words until you can write words no more.
Then the next day.
Then the day after that.
Until you’ve finished something. Until you’ve completed the first pass. It’ll be an ugly baby, probably. It’ll be some squalling thing full of slugs and grease, moaning in the mulch. That’s okay. No mad scientist creates the perfect monster on the first go-round.
You’re doing it.
And once you do it long enough, you can say that you did it.
Halt den mund.
Then you can email me.
Then we can talk.