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?

AWP Makes Me Sleepy, Inky, and Blissful

My friend Beth enlisted a food service professional to snap this shot. Yes, those beers ARE that big.
My friend Beth enlisted a food service professional to snap this shot. Yes, those beers ARE that big.

There’s a whole bunch of post-AWP posts this morning.

Here’s one I like most, my friend Beth wrote it. Beth is my new in-person friend. ¬†My friend Jamie is why we know each other. Jamie is a good yenta.

The Missouri review posted this.

This guy I met is the editor of this great site, and I encourage all of you to read The Rumpus every day. And buy that incredible coffee mug. I did.

I met Jane Friedman. In person. Jane Friedman is a social media/author platform/online savvy hero of mine.

VIDA is fucking great.

Julianna Baggott wrote a serious blog post about AWP that is worth your consideration.

There is too much to give you a total rundown of the people I saw, met, and was excited to be in the same town with. AWP is rad. Exhilirating. Happy-making.

I spent most of my time at the book fair. I can’t wait to go next year.

Anybody from Seattle reading? Want a 4-day couch surfer in March?


I stayed in Gloucester which is a bit north of Boston.

I got a tattoo on my arm that says Strident Feminist.


That’s not a great picture. I’ll get a better one & show you soon. Promise.

I got the tattoo from James LaCroix at Compass Rose in Gloucester, I recommend both.

Blissed Out

While I was there, I felt great. I felt special. I tweeted about it, and I’m still trying to reckon out how it works that I felt special–like I’m doing what I ought to be doing, unintimidated by the huge number of other writers, most of whom are far bigger deals than I am. I should’ve felt like an imposter, like I feel every time I sit down in front of a blank screen or page. I should’ve felt like there’s no hope for my success in this world. But I felt the precise opposite.

It was affirmative. Encouraging. And gave me more tools for moving forward, even though I failed to make as much use of the conference as I wanted to. As I should have.

My Brain Feels Mushy

And I want to take a nap. A two-day nap. I think I can manage a two-hour one sometime tomorrow.