Skip to content

If You Want To Become An Acolyte Of Ursinetha, Goddess-Hunter And Queen Of Skulls, Eat The Still Beating Heart Of A Bear Every Day Or Quit Now

Posted in Uncategorized

Tomorrow, I will sit down and spend hours writing my current work in progress. I’m not sure right now if it’s going to be a hit, if my readers will love it or loathe it, or if it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I don’t know if it will be a nail in the coffin of my writing career or if it will shoot me to the very heights of critical acclaim.

What I do know is that day, that very day, one thousand other people will also be writing their books. In order to make sure mine stands out from the crowd, my mind must be clear so I can write better than them. So, forgive me–I have to kill a bear.

Look, I’m not going to mince words here: Of the thousand other writers, 800 won’t have been blessed by Ursinetha, Goddess-Hunter and Queen of Skulls (may she reign in blood). Ursinetha love them, Ursinetha, be with them, Ursinetha, show them the mercy of a quick death beneath your dripping claws, they just are not as talented and dedicated to her glorious worship as I am. And that’s why they’re not going to be able to write a book. Because the Forest Spirits are in them, and once they’re in there, there’s no getting the out. Not without the appropriate sacrifices. For that same reason, I will never know a night’s sleep undisturbed by vivid memories of tearing hide and the steaming, fetid stench of an animal already decaying between my frenzied jaws, not matter how much I may want to.

So, that only leaves 200 other writers to compete with me. Sure, they may be smarter or more photogenic. They may have never taken the life of a man dressed as a bear in ceremonial combat. If they were writing this piece instead of me, you would like it a lot more, because it wouldn’t have so many parts about mysterious bear cults. They probably don’t have mystic runes tattooed on their back that ward them from the attacks of the Wolf Mages. You wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring them to parties.

I will conquer them all, however, and I will do it because I am willing to do what it takes to please the Forest Gods.

I will eat the still beating heart of a bear, and they will not.

 

The two most important tools at your disposal as a writer are your natural love of the written word and the dedication required to wrestle, subdue, and kill a bear. Somewhere along the line, all those people competing with me just lose their drive. I’m in too deep to stop now. They might lack the faith necessary to put their lives on the line for Ursinetha’s blessing, but I don’t. Maybe they’ll make some new friends; mine are all dead now, perished between the crushing teeth of an angry bear or smote to ashes by a Wolf Mage. Their books will wither like so much bear meat left to rot in the undergrowth.

I know about bear meat. And books. And I know that without one, the other cannot survive.

I get it. You’re working hard on your book, doing your thing day in and day out until your brain gets tired and you think, “Man, I have to quit before I burn out.” Maybe you start taking a weekend off here and there. And that’s when the call of the wilderness touches you, draws you from your computer and into the night. You strip naked, you run on all fours. When you wake up, you don’t know where you are, but the rows of sturdy RVs and screaming campers give you an indication. Somehow, you’ve wound up in the KOA, wrapped in a black bear’s hide. And there’s blood. Oh god, there’s so much blood. But you didn’t finish the ritual.

I’m not a quitter. I don’t quit. When I start a mystical journey to conquer the raging forest spirits that haunt my dreams, I finish. So, let me give you some advice in your own quest.

The most important thing is to eat the heart.

If you don’t have the will to bring that steaming, still pumping organ to your lips, you are in the wrong business. Once you’ve broken the covenant with Ursinetha, she will offer you no protection. You have to make daily bear sacrifices a part of your routine. It has to become second nature, like making coffee or burning the appropriate herbs at a crossroads. It’s not a triumph of the muse. There’s nothing noble or dramatic about it. You do it because you have to, and because the moon has reached the zenith of its darkness. If you’re having to force yourself to take that first bite, you’re doing something wrong. Ever consider just not being a writer? We have plenty of those. Ones who don’t balk at consuming a bear’s heart.

Easy enough, right? Here’s how you do it: you murder a bear every day. Obviously, I don’t mean every day. Words don’t magically start meaning the things everyone understands them to mean just because I’m a writer telling you to murder a bear every day. Not knowing what words mean is an integral part of authorship. What I meant was: devour the heart of a bear every day.

The most difficult part of an author’s life isn’t the hours spent meticulously plotting a story or improving their craft, but their ability to constantly be thinking about ways to please Ursinetha and prove your devotion to her coven. You have to get into the mind of the bear. You have to make yourself become the bear. It will help you find the bear you’re meant to kill, until it becomes second nature to you. But if you stop, if you don’t do this every day (despite the fact that I’ve already said “Obviously, I don’t mean every day.”) eventually, you won’t remember how to take a life at all. Then you’ll have to go back to the Cave Of Waking Dreams and start your training all over!

The sad reality is that in the end, no matter how many hearts you’ve sacrificed to Ursinetha in shared feast, you may never fully defeat the Forest Spirits. You may be eaten by a bear. But you’ll never know what you can do until you’re free from the call of the still woodland night. So you get out there, and YOU EAT THE GODDAMNED BEAR HEART.

This piece was inspired by an insipid and self-congratulatory piece of nonsense by Pulitzer Prize winning critic Stephen Hunter, titled, “If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Day or Quit Now” for The Daily Beast. It is only slightly more nonsensical than the above satire.

Do not fret over the advice Hunter dispensed in his piece. You can finish a book without writing every day. Almost every writer does. And other writers aren’t your competition (though they’ve apparently been unknowingly competing with Mr. Hunter for years). You do you, and fuck anyone who tells you that you should quit. Especially if they’ve just admitted to wanting you to fail in the very essay in which they claim to want to help you succeed.

 

15 Comments

  1. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    I suppose he was trying to be funny, but he really does seem to have a one-size-fits-all view. I know plenty of people who come up with their best ideas while they are mowing the lawn or something, and they do the actual writing/typing much later. As for my degrees, I did research during my lunch breaks, but didn’t try to write it up until the weekends. I knew I was too tired to concentrate at night.

    May 29, 2017
    |Reply
  2. Nocturnal Queen
    Nocturnal Queen

    I’m wondering if he is trying to kill other people’s joy for writing to weed out the competition.

    Honestly, if he sees writing as a boring chore you have to do every day in order to reach an end goal, I’m not sure why he is even writing. I write because creating stories makes me happy. I don’t write just for the sake of having a finished product.

    May 29, 2017
    |Reply
    • GS
      GS

      I bet he is. It’s surprising how anxious that thing makes me considering he claims to want to reduce anxiety in the writing process!

      May 30, 2017
      |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        He’s wrong anyway, about some books. Both “Gone With the Wind” and “Forever Amber” have plot twists involved with history, and we learn much about the characters by how they react to this or that social convention of the time, or even by which fashions they prefer. Kathleen Winsor actually got the idea when typing her husband’s thesis on 17th-century England.

        May 30, 2017
        |Reply
  3. Michael Dare
    Michael Dare

    So … I’m pretty sure Jenny had a strange encounter last night and I’m also pretty sure it went something like this:

    Ursinetha: I do not make this invitation to everyone. And I sure as shit do not make it lightly. You do not need to be scared any more. You do not need to be scared. You just have to answer me one question, and it’s a big one. Who. Are-

    Jenny: I am Ursinetha, Goddess-Hunter And Queen Of Skulls. I’m utterly, completely, stone cold Ursinetha, Goddess-Hunter And Queen Of Skulls. I was Ursinetha, Goddess-Hunter And Queen Of Skulls before I even met you, I just needed to meet you properly to know. I’m Ursinetha, Goddess-Hunter And Queen Of Skulls.

    May 30, 2017
    |Reply
  4. Victoriana
    Victoriana

    Also has this guy ever actually met a reader? We do not read just one book and stop there forever. Avid readers read dozens, if not hundreds of books a year in their preferred genres.

    So this is not a zero sum game for authors – in fact, other successful authors publishing in your genre/subgenre can actually be a boon because they can provide more readers/customers hungry for more of the same who might pick up your book next (especially with Amazon’s algorithms ever eager to suggest similar books – I’ve picked up dozens of books and tried several new authors over the years through the Customers Also Bought feature).

    Of course you know all that given your extensive familiarity with the 50 Shades phenomenon and how it boosted similar erotic romance sales and audiences, bringing thousands of new readers to erotic romance who’d never even heard of the genre before (despite the terrible writing and romanticization of relationship abuse, at least that’s one silver lining of the whole thing).

    (I wonder if this guy’s wanting other writers to fail is part of why he’s giving us all such shitty advice. Hmm…)

    May 30, 2017
    |Reply
    • Nocturnal Queen
      Nocturnal Queen

      Good point!

      Also, being friendly with other authors can boost you sales. Many recommend their author friends’ books to their readers. You are also way more likely to get invited to events if you are nice, polite, respectful and friendly with authors instead of treating them all like competition.

      May 31, 2017
      |Reply
  5. Indigo
    Indigo

    Terry Brooks wrote some horrible “advice for young writers” guide once where he declared that *everybody* has to write outlines. He even recounts an anecdote where Anne McCaffrey turned to him at a panel and said, more or less, “I don’t outline squat”, but just uses that to inform the reader that since they’re *not* a supertalent like McCaffrey, they MUST outline. I threw the book at the wall at that point.

    May 30, 2017
    |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Oh for Gawd’s SAKE.

      EVERYBODY’S process is different. I have a friend who writes entire works in his head, whether fiction or research papers, and just has to type them up, straight from beginning to end. I know people who outline. For research, I write things from the middle, figure out how they end, and LAST, go back to the beginning and ask the question I’ve answered (God bless cut-and-paste). Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote between changing and burping babies, the Brontes alternated writing with peeling potatoes and coping with their drunk brother. Honore de Balzac had so much trouble getting to work that he used to sit in a bathtub with some writing implements and a tub of coffee within reach, his current girlfriend would take away his clothes, and he couldn’t come out until he’d written so many pages. Obviously it worked for HIM: ever read all of the Human Comedy?

      Margaret Mitchell wrote the last chapter of GWTW FIRST, then had to figure out to get to that place. Her second to last section written was figuring out what to do with husband #2 (she considered a bad cold before settling on the raid on Shantytown), and her last section written was the opening scene, which gave her tremendous trouble. (Ironically, that scene also had to be re-shot numerous times in the film version, eventually to accommodate a critical costume change: they wanted to save the famous green-sprigged dress for Twelve Oaks, though the book had Scarlett wearing it both days, and the white dress they finally used indicated the character’s initial youth and inexperience.)

      As for Kathleen Winsor, whenever she typed up a section of her husband’s thesis, she wondered, “How would Amber react to the plague? What would she have done differently from some of Charles II’s other mistresses? How can I use the fashions of cheek-plumpers and mouse-hair eyebrows to show that her new mother-in-law is mutton-dressed as lamb?”

      Hunter is just virtue-signalling–“look how dedicated *I* am.” I don’t think he knows or cares if others are discouraged or not, just likes preening his pompous posterior about what a great guy he is.

      May 31, 2017
      |Reply
      • Victoriana
        Victoriana

        Balzac’s method sounds pretty hardcore.

        I’m not surprised people’s methods are as varied as their personalities and brains. A one-size-fits all method rarely works for anything.

        May 31, 2017
        |Reply
        • ViolettaD
          ViolettaD

          He must have been as wrinkled as a prune sometimes.

          May 31, 2017
          |Reply
        • Indigo
          Indigo

          Douglas Adams apparently had to do something similar (though I don’t think his wife and his publisher took away his clothes), since, as he said, “I love deadlines; I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Neil Gaiman once said of Terry Pratchett, “I think if you left him alone in a completely empty room for long enough, that man would lick a novel onto the walls.” (Shades of the Marquis de Sade in Quills, although that was a lot…grosser.)

          June 1, 2017
          |Reply
  6. candy apple
    candy apple

    Actually, he just said something I needed to hear — ” You can always fix it later. “

    May 31, 2017
    |Reply
  7. Artemis
    Artemis

    I totally sent this Important Article to all my writer friends.

    June 1, 2017
    |Reply
  8. DL
    DL

    This. This is what I needed today. Thank you.

    June 6, 2017
    |Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *