Subtle Art

Lesson 100 Chapter 4 Module 9

A lot of the writing in this course might feel like “very professional writing” up to this point.

And if that isn’t your voice (maybe you are a bit more conversational, more academic, more whatever-your-personal-style-may-be) it can feel a bit like you’ll be forever pushing your rock up a hill that you’ll never fully ascend.

But today’s lesson is a real-life example of that not being the case.

You may have been told in the past that profanity and swearing have no place in professional or published writing. Mark Twain once joked that to cut down on overusing the word “very”, you should just type “damn” every time and your editor or publisher will delete every single one.

While there are certainly industries and publications where you will still have to curb your cussing, if it is truly part of your voice and communication, when you have are given the freedom to use the words you would use every day—you should run with it.

In the essay The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, author Mark Manson ripped the band-aid right off the critics who will tell you that swearing has no place in respectable writing.

The full article, of 2,324 words, a whopping 111 are the word “fuck.” That’s 4.7% of the whole piece!

Anyone in publishing and business would tell you to never hit publish on a piece like that. It could potentially kill your career and any future you would have in the industries.

Sure, it polarized people. He got a LOT of backlash, and unsubscribes, and readers clutching their pearls in horror at the swearing that had just been unleashed on their computer and smartphone screens.

But he also hit a nerve, and found probably double the amount of people who were leaving, now interested in learning more about him and his writing.

Within months (possibly sooner?), he had an agent shopping his essay around to nonfiction publishers, looking for a five-to-six-figure book deal on a yet to be written full manuscript.

When the book published in September of 2016, he was begging bookstores to bring him in for signings. Then, after the first week of sales, he was sitting pretty on The New York Times bestseller list. A few months later, Amazon announced TSAoNGAF was the Most Read Kindle Book of the Year.

It established Mark in the modern literary elite of New York City, all on the back of an essay that he shouldn’t have published if he had listened to all the conventional advice and wisdom of “how to write.”

Instead, he wrote what he thought and felt about something he noticed was important; and while the use of the profanity in the essay was excessive, it was also part of the message and concept (we give too many fucks in our lives, just like in this essay where it almost seems like there are too many strewn about.)

Now he doesn’t go on daytime television interviews and spout off a slew of obscenities while throwing his hands up in the air and saying “But this is who I am!” He doesn’t write op-eds for major publications with the same ratios of profanity (or possibly any profanity at all!) if that isn’t what the style and tone are.

He knows where to give his fucks and where not to.

Something to consider as you are deciding how you want to write and be read, and what you are willing to dig in on for your own unique voice and style (and where you are willing to make compromises.)

In the excerpt, I’ve censored the word f*ck as it appears a LOT. Please feel free to copy-write the censored or the uncensored version, depending on what you are most comfortable with. After all, this is all about you.

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