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IWSG: Writers and the subtle art of not giving a f*ck

It was the Christmas gift my mom was most worried about. “Open it last,” she said, fretting. “I’m not sure you’ll like it.”

Used to her doubting her gift choices, I tore it open anyway, to find Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I laughed out loud, happy to reassure her that not only was it a good choice, I’d actually wanted to read it.

I’m not much for pop psychology books, and even less for bloggers-turned-best-selling novelists, but Manson is so funny and refreshingly different he had me hooked from the first page. I haven’t finished his book yet, but already I’ve learned a lot. While reading, it struck me how helpful his advice would be for writers.

Rather than tell you how to avoid caring about anything, as the title may imply, Manson’s book is instead about choosing to care only about what’s most important to you, and not worrying about anything else. Bold, brilliant lives are forged when we decide we have no more f*cks to give…think about how many times this industry has kicked your butt, but you’ve kept writing anyway. That’s exactly the kind of thing he’s talking about.

He also explains that our current society is so focused on being happy that we’ve forgotten suffering is an unavoidable part of being human. We all experience sadness, sickness, death, heartbreak, anxiety, worries and fears, etc., yet we’re told there’s something wrong with us if we’re not Positive with a capital “P” all the time. No one wants to be a downer. Manson says this pressure creates a spiral where we feel guilty about feeling guilty, worry about how much we worry, feel anxious about being anxious, get sad about feeling sad. These feelings aren’t touted as “normal,” so people do whatever they can to escape them, whether that’s turning to drugs and alcohol, buying things they don’t need, becoming adrenalin junkies, or simple avoidance. But if we accept that we’re all flawed, and we’re all going to feel shitty sometimes, it frees us. As someone who’s spent a lot of time worrying about worrying, this resonated with me. Sometimes I’m going to worry about stuff I can’t control, but so what? The trick is to only worry about the things that are truly important to me.

Is becoming the best writer I can possibly be important to me? Yes. Is making writing a sustainable career important? Hell, yes! But how about the bad reviews, the rejections, the days of poor sales, the friends who can’t be bothered to buy my books? Basically, someone else’s subjective opinion of what I do? Is that important? No. Everyone who puts themselves out there creatively is going to encounter those who negate or otherwise crap all over what we’re trying to do. The last thing we should care about is people like that.

Easier said than done? Of course, but I found Manson’s message inspiring, especially as a writer. If I let all of the stuff I can’t control go, and focus on what I can control–namely, doing the best work I can, learning as much as I can, and budgeting wisely–there’s no limit to what I could achieve. He adds that when people admit they’re flawed, that they have challenges and negative traits just like anyone else, that’s when they tend to succeed. An image of perfection is not genuine.

Have you read Manson’s book? What would you choose to not give a f*ck about anymore? Or what should you give more f*cks about?

P.S. I’m behind on blog comments/visits again, but promise to catch up this week. Hope everyone had a wonderful New Year’s celebration and is feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThose who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

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44 Comments

  1. I haven’t read Manson’s book, but it sounds interesting. I like to think that I won’t care about what other people think once I get to the point of publishing my book, but it’s probably easier said than done. Hopefully, it’s something I won’t give a “blankety-blank” about when the time comes 🙂

    Reply
  2. Excellent post and I definitely want to read this book now!

    Reply
  3. I think that’s a great message. We shouldn’t feel bad for not being perfect. Especially since no one can be perfect.

    Reply
  4. Excellent post! I’ve wasted so much time and creative energy worrying about other people, being considerate, being nice, doing the “right” thing blah blah blah. And I have little to show for it in terms of my writing career and in those very relationships where I put so much effort. I’m working on changing/managing it, but it’s hard to break such an ingrained habit.

    Making a note of the Manson book. Along the same lines, right now, I’m reading YOU DO YOU by Sarah Knight.

    Reply
  5. I do want to read this book, but I’m so behind on my reading, it’s laughable.

    I agree with you, though. One should accept the negative with the positive, and stop worrying about whether we’re normal to feel the way we do. (Except for when it makes us realize there’s something seriously wrong, of course.)

    I hope you have an amazing 2018!

    Reply
    • JH

      You too, Misha. You deserve some good news this year. A LOT of good news.

      Reply
  6. Wise words, and, easier said than done. I keep thinking that when one becomes “successful”, ignoring the bad stuff will be easier. But, everyone has the same feelings of wanting to please and inspire readers (and people around us) and are affected by criticism. We do need to teach ourselves that it is OK to feel bad, sad, … and to focus on the positives in regards to our craft. It sounds like Manson’s book is a good one to have around, in case we need to pick ourselves up. I like to “preserve energy” in relation to negative experiences or people I don’t care about (basically, don’t waste precious time on them) and put my energy and efforts in fun relationships, people you care about and projects that enrich you.

    Reply
    • JH

      Interestingly, Manson points out that successful people still have problems, they just have “better” problems, so our goal in life should be not to be without problems, since that’s impossible, but to have better problems. It’s definitely an unusual way of looking at things.

      I think preserving your energy when dealing with the stuff that doesn’t matter is a great idea. I can’t always do that, but it’s definitely a goal moving forward.

      Reply
  7. I wish I gave fewer fucks. Keep a few for myself. Working on it, though. I suspect I’ll need quite a few this year.

    But that was an excellent Christmas present! I’m sure your mom was relieved. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Another of my blogger friends was raving about this book. I realized that, based on how I was raised, I’m pretty good at not giving my f*cks to stuff that doesn’t deserve them. Hope you find a happier year this year!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Loni. I’m envious you already have this nailed. Talk about a valuable skill!

      Happy New Year.

      Reply
  9. Awesome, thought provoking post as usual–and very timely! I’ve been interested in this book before and think it’s time to pick it up.

    Glad you had some laughs and affirmations so early in the New Year, my friend! May you only give f*cks to things you care deeply about or that are important to you in 2018! 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much Ev, and thanks for commenting. I really appreciate all the encouragement and advice you’ve given me over the past few years.

      Hope 2018 is good to you.

      Reply
  10. I like the sound of that book and may have to pick it up myself.

    Reply
  11. Good post. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve seen it at the library and been interested. It sounds like it’s some sound common sense. I’m pretty sure I should read it.

    May 2018 treat you well!

    Reply
    • JH

      Same to you, Rebecca. Happy New Year!

      Reply
  12. My wife just finished that book and she loved, loved, loved it. I agreed with almost everything she shared with me from the book, and I love what you’ve shared here.

    Reply
    • JH

      Glad to hear it maintains its appeal throughout. Sometimes these books start off strong and then fizzle.

      Reply
  13. This sounds like a very interesting book. It certainly has a clever title. Thanks for sharing! I think I might check it out. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re welcome, Chrys. If you do, I hope you find it helpful.

      Reply
  14. I’d stay here to write a long and inspiring comment, but I’m out the door to the nearest bookstore to buy that book. Somehow I want to hold it to my chest and smell the new book smell because this is a book I need–now–actually years ago. Merci and adieu. Catch you later.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ha ha, go Lee go! Before they’re all gone.

      Reply
  15. This book has been on my radar for a while, but I haven’t read it yet. I’m glad to hear that it is worth the time. And glad that you’re learning to let go what doesn’t matter. We all need to learn when to give a f*ck 🙂 @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

    Reply
  16. Hi J.H.! I’m definitely going to pick this book up! I think giving less of a darn is a wonderful goal to aspire to for us all. I can’t count the amount of energy I’ve wasted on this, and it’s very difficult for people pleasers like myself and the others who have commented to break this habit of caring too much. Still, it’s something I think I will need to train myself to do going forward. Thanks!

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Anita. I really hope you find it helpful. At the very least, it will make you laugh.

      Reply
  17. Now that sounds like just the sort of self-help book I should be reading. Thanks for the insights.

    Happy New Year!!!

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re welcome, Dolorah. Happy New Year!

      Reply
  18. I keep picking it up and almost buying it. Now, since you recommend it, consider it sold! Thanks!

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Hunter. I hope you enjoy it.

      Reply
  19. That book keeps popping up in my suggested reading list on my audible account. I’ll pick it next time I have a credit. I need it, oh so much. Happy reading and writing in 2018! I look forward to more of your words. And, hey, I was inspired by you and your writing in the horror genre when I wrote my story for the IWSG anthology. It’s not horror, but kind of.

    Reply
    • JH

      Aw, what a nice compliment, Mary. And congrats on having a story accepted for the anthology!

      Reply
  20. It’s all that “stuff” that we can’t control and doesn’t really matter in the long run that bugs us, isn’t it?

    Reply
    • JH

      Often, so I’m looking forward to learning how to let it go.

      Reply
  21. Thank you for sharing this book, it sounds like one I need to read! Happy New Year to you.

    Reply
    • JH

      Happy New Year to you, Doreen!

      Reply
  22. A great message. I still care what people think of me and, more importantly, my writing, but I try not to obsess over it. The book sounds great.

    Reply
  23. Sounds like a book I need to read right now!

    Reply
  24. I have not read the book..I had not even heard of it until now. It sounds refreshing without it being preachy. Glad you are home safe and sound

    Reply
  25. Do you think Manson’s book is worth reading if you already know the message? I’ve heard a lot of good reviews for this book, but I just was wondering if it’s worth the read? Anyway, glad you got something out of it and that your mom gave you a gift you actually wanted for Christmas. Hopefully, you will be able to focus on what matters most to you in 2018! Best of luck for the new year and getting caught up! 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, Mandy, but yes, it’s definitely worth reading. Unless you’ve already read the book, I guarantee there will be several pieces of advice or ways of looking at things that will surprise you. Knowing the overall message will not spoil the read.

      Reply
  26. This sounds like a book I might be interested in. Like you, I’m really into “pop psychology books” but this sounds like it might be worth a look. Plus, I’m totally there. I have a whole new outlook on life and my writing, this might be the right time to hear this message.

    Reply
    • JH

      Great to hear, Toi. I personally think you’d really enjoy it. It’s a funny, easy read. Made me laugh a few times.

      Reply

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