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“Write Like a Motherfucker”

Write Like a Motherfucker - Cheryl Strayed

“Write like a motherfucker” is a pretty good mantra. Anytime I forget, all I have to do is I brew coffee and study my mug.


Cheryl Strayed was interviewed in the March/April edition of Poets & Writers. Couple things to know about Cheryl:

(1) She’s the author of the big-buzz memoir, Wild, which was made into a major motion picture starting Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.

(2) Her cred was reinforced when she revealed she was (is) Sugar, advice columnist for the Rumpus. Sugar’s all kinds of smart, a real straight shooter. And all along she was Cheryl Strayed!

In the literary world, it felt like a serious unveiling, a big damn deal. Like the winner of the Masked Singer pulling off a bunny mask, revealing that Cormac McCarthy was the guy singing Hall & Oates’ “Maneater.” Or something like that.

Now, in Sugar’s best-known column, a 26-year-old wrote in. The 26-year-old had this to say: “I write like a girl, I write about my lady life experiences, and it usually comes out as unfiltered emotion, unrequited love, and eventual discussion of my vagina as a metaphor…I am a pathetic and confused young woman who can’t write.” She then lamented how she’d never be a great writer like David Foster Wallace.

Sugar replied: “The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at twenty-six, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there. It laments that you’ll never be as good as David Foster Wallace—a genius, a master of the craft—while at the same time describing how little you write. You loathe yourself, and yet you’re consumed by the grandiose ideas you have about your own importance. You’re up too high and down too low. Neither is the place where we get any work done.”

Sugar concluded: “So write…. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

Write like a motherfucker. I’ve honestly never heard better advice. Time to get to it.

2 Responses

  1. Yep. And I love these lines: “You loathe yourself, and yet you’re consumed by the grandiose ideas you have about your own importance. You’re up too high and down too low. Neither is the place where we get any work done.”

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