PSA To Writers: Don’t Be A Shit-Flinging Gibbon

Here is a thing that sometimes happens to me and other authors who feature a not-insignificant footprint online or in the “industry,” as it were:

Some rando writer randos into my social media feed and tries to pick a fight. Or shits on fellow authors, or drums up some kind of fake-ass anti-me campaign or — you know, basically, the equivalent to reaching into the overfull diaper that sags around their hips and hurling a glob of whatever feces their body produces on any given day. The behavior of a shit-flinging gibbon.

Now, a shit-flinging gibbon hopes to accomplish attention for itself. It throws shit because it knows no other way to get that attention. The gibbon’s most valuable asset, ahem, is its foul colonic matter, so that’s the resource it has at hand.

Thing is, you’re not a shit-flinging gibbon.

You’re a writer.

Your most valuable asset is, ideally, your writing.

If it’s not, that’s a problem. A problem with you, to be clear, and not a problem with the rest of the world. It rests squarely upon your shoulders.

If your best way to get attention for yourself is to throw shit instead of write a damn good book, you are a troll, not a professional writer.

Your best advertising for yourself as a writer is to write the best book you can write.

Your best advertising for the last book you wrote is the next book.

Your best boost to your career is to be the best version of yourself. Online, in-person, all-around — summon the ideal version of yourself and present that face to the world, to your potential audience. That is how you earn your audience. You don’t build them. Your audience isn’t a fucking chair. They are a group of people who you can, in part, earn as readers and as fans. (I say in part because you can never please everybody, nor should you try.)

If the best version of yourself is a shit-flinging gibbon, you’re in trouble.

And certainly someone here is saying, But you just said you can’t please everybody, so why can’t I just be a shit-flinging gibbon? Well, you can be. It’s an option. It’s a tactic. It’s just a bad one. It’s one that leads with a broken foot. You’re saying, “I’m a writer,” and yet, you’re not leading with your work. You’re leading with antics. You’re leading with a toddler tantrum. No book will earn the love of a whole audience, but the book is still the point. And shit-flinging gibbons are not excellent sellers of, or writers of, books.

Now, most of you, I assume, are not shit-flinging gibbons. Your judgment is dubious — after all, you come here to read whatever hot piffle comes belching up out of my thought-hole — but at the very least, I safely assume few of you are monkeys who fling poo. And despite this, the overarching lesson is still true: most writing problems are solved by writing.

Having a problem getting traction in the book you’re working on? Write your way through it. Put words on paper. Agitate the writing with writing.

Having a problem even still? Rewrite it.

Having a problem marketing this book? Write the next book.

Having a problem with author drama or publishing nonsense? Distract yourself by, yep, you guessed it, writing something.

Can’t sell this book? Write another book.

Writing is a key to a door. It is a finely-crafted, articulate key. It is the best and shiniest artifact in your arsenal. Yes, you can try to kick the door down. Yes, you can try to bash it open with another author’s head. But your own writing is the best key you have, so use it.

No, it’s not a skeleton key. It doesn’t open all doors. Sometimes the act of writing is also about not writing — about waiting, ruminating, outlining, reading, living, about punching frozen beef, about drinking gin-and-tonics, about hunting whales and ingesting whole hummingbirds and okay you know what, I think I lost the narrative thread here a little. Point being, writing isn’t always about writing.

But the career, overall, is.

This is true however you publish, whatever you write.

Writing begets writing. Writing sells writing.

Writing is an act of doing. It is an act of making.

It is also an act of persevering.

And surviving.

A lot of writers simply can’t hack it, so they quit. The road ahead and behind you is littered with the corpses of writers who just couldn’t hack it. (And spoiler alert, some of them are the desiccated carcasses of shit-flinging gibbons.) They couldn’t deal, so they gave up and gave in.

Writing is you not quitting. It’s you taking a bite and digging your teeth deeper like a cranky-ass bulldog who refuses to let go. It isn’t you being a crap-tossing primate.

Be the best version of yourself.

Let your writing be the guide.

Write the greatest damn book you can write.

And don’t be a shitty monkey.

The end.

35 comments

  • I went to a conference last February. The agents there said the same thing. Don’t go flaming around toxic air because it will burn you. They spoke specifically with people who had flamed them instead of speaking in reasonable tones and working with the advice they gave. These folks talk to each other and say, “Man, that shit flinging gibbon who wrote blank will never get additional comments from us. Blacklist (and not the one with tuxes.) Just wanted to say, you are right about writing, waiting and writing more, Good Knight of the Writer’s Wave. Thanks.

  • It’s not just fiction writers. I can’t go to the news/opinion aggregators and online magazines because of this. There’s only one Christopher Hitchens and you aren’t it!

  • Well done. Well said. Well advised. You’re the best. I’ve been reading your blog for years now. You remain the greatest PenMonkey Guru with a keyboard. Thanks Chuck.

  • “Your judgment is dubious — after all, you come here to read whatever hot piffle comes belching up out of my thought-hole ” This is why I listen to you. You know aren’t all that and a bag of chips.

  • I don’t know whether to find it sad or reassuring that the writer profession attracts as much shit-flinging as say, the movie or actor profession. I guess wherever you have famous or successful people, you’re going to get asshats trying to pull them down in an attempt to raise themselves up.

  • Excellent advice! (Although I *may* have stopped at the part about drinking gin and tonics to, well, drink gin and tonics. Which is also excellent advice.)

  • I can’t help but wonder what inspired these pearls of wisdom. That said, it should go without saying that you don’t shit in your own nest, and when a writer shits on other writers, that’s basically what they’re doing. Love to you and all the other word-nerds of the world.

  • Sometimes, you just make my day.
    I’m sorry you are dealing (or maybe speaking for someone else who is dealing) with this issue. But there is a bright side! Your musings, rants and comments, not only entertain us, (your loyal followers) but teach us valuable lessons about the real world of the successful writer. Keep on keepin’ on, Chuck. You’re the best.

  • I work in a private school library (the day job) and some students approach me with a less-than-nice attitude (okay, hostile). Or an attitude of entitlement (a lot of those). My though is always the same after an encounter with one of these “fun” people. Are you going to take that attitude into your new industry, your new job? Good luck to you! My point being, I’m learning every day how to be the best person I can be, and that carries over into being the best writer I can be. I have yet to work with an agent or publisher, but I’m doing my homework!

    Thank you for your (entertaining) rant, and your blog. Any inspiration goes a long way for this newbie writer.

  • “Surely nobody thinks they’ll attain some huge success by being an asshole on the internet,” I thought, up until the moment when somebody won a presidential election that way.

  • Shit flinging-gibbons seem to be mostly an online phenomenon, although I’ve met a few face-to-face. In my experience, though, most writers understand that one writer’s success does not diminish the success of others, and, more than that, helping each other is essential to our success as a writer.

    Perseverance, though, is hard. It may be the writer’s central discipline.

    A good article, Chuck.

  • Yesterday, before this post was published, I decided to play a drinking game. Every time I found the term “shit-flinging gibbons” I would take a shot. It’s over 30 hours later, and I’ve woken up in the hospital. Great post, though… humorous.

  • Chuck Wendig, you make me laugh so hard! I love it. You are also the cause of cappuccino attempting to spurt out of my nostrils—which I didn’t really appreciate. At all.
    But on the whole, thank you for your words, you fabulous penmonkey, you.
    Speaking of monkeys, I had a rather large one take a stroll (do monkeys stroll?) through my front garden the other day. I live in Thailand, so…monkeys. But I still get a bit excited at seeing one in my very own garden. I did not approach, however, because the dude looked as though he had large attitude. I thought he might monkey slap me or assault me with a banana or something.
    So I’m off now and will be on the alert for angry monkeys with attitude, as well as shit-flinging gibbons.
    Have a great day,
    Sayara

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