Fuck Everyone

Advice for young writers

Sarah Smith

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Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

I’ve noticed a definite pattern in the questions that come up from my students, my friends, in my tarot advice column, and generally all over the place in writing life.

It sounds something like this:

“I want to write this book, but it’s really weird, and this agent I spoke with once at a cocktail party told me that weird books were over.”

“I want to write this book, but it’s really weird, and I don’t know if anyone is going to buy it.”

“I want to write this book, but it’s really fucking weird and I’m afraid I will be kicked out of the human race if anybody ever reads it.”

“I’m in the middle of writing this weird-ass book, but the randoms on GoodReads seem to frankly hate this kind of thing, should I pivot?”

“I’m writing this book, and I love it, but I’m afraid it’s too candid/personal/political/gruesome/garish/loud/disgusting/unapologetic/quiet/poetic/restrained/plotless/campy/obvious/lyrical, etc.”

Let me state for the record, and forever:

PEOPLE WANT TO READ YOUR FREAKY ASS BOOK.

I get it. It’s a serious risk to write something when you aren’t sure how it’s going to land, or what people will say.

But the thing is, there’s really no guarantee that people will like a book even if you grind off all the edges and take away everything that might offend someone’s sensibilities.

Just to be clear, by “everyone” I mean everyone who doubted you, judged you, or tried to push you into a narrow view of yourself. Everyone who said you were too much of one thing, not enough of the other. They’ll be qualified to advise you once they have the courage to write their books, and until that day, they don’t get to say sweet fuck-all about the value of what you do.

Please consider this utterly unconditioned permission to write exactly the book that you have always wanted to write.

It’s not the easiest path. There’s a lot of risk in writing anything, and even more when you’re writing something that challenges you and others. It’s hard to write exactly the book that’s in you without judging it and trying to remove the possibly objectionable parts ahead of time.

(Those are totally the best parts, by the way.)

And if you like brave, weird, fuck-everyone books, please say so in the comments so other writers know that there’s a massive readership out there for the challenging, the sublime, the weird/freaky/dreamlike, the surreal, the who-the-fuck-knows books.

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Sarah Smith

Novelist. Tarotist, poet, lazy Virgo. Nothing is real; magic is real. Writing is a way to see in the dark. sarahelainesmith.com, @braindoggies