Fight Club Syndrome – When Writing a Book Blows Up Your World

So you’re writing a book. Go you. You plot it out, schedule time to write every day, meet your deadlines and, in general, kick your manuscript’s ever-loving ass. And then shit happens.

The kids need cupcakes for school, help with homework or, say, clean clothes. The dog eats your socks and needs surgery. Your husband whines because you’re burrowed into your computer screen every night instead of snuggling with him watching the game. Your boss needs you to stay late – three nights this week. By the time the weekend comes, all you want is sleep. Screw the book.

BAM. Your writing is waylaid.

It happens to the best of us. But here’s where the men get separated from the boys. Are you going to climb back on that proverbial horse or sit on your ass and bitch about the unfairness of it all? (Three cliches in two sentences. A new record.)

Fight Club is a 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk and a 1999 film with Brad Pitt. Every weekend, in the basements and bar parking lots across the country, young men with white collar jobs and failed lives take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded. Then they go back to those jobs with black eyes and loose teeth – and a sense they can handle anything.

The first rule of Fight Club? You don’t talk about Fight Club.

And so it is with writers. We write. We don’t talk about it, think about it or plan it. Talking about it is not doing it. Thinking about it is not doing it. Planning it is not doing it.

Professional writers – the people who are burning inside to write their books – will stay up late, rearrange their lives and make deals with their spouses, in the name of writing. They will go back to work on Monday exhausted, but with a massive sense of accomplishment and pride. Because they are doing something that 98 percent of the population never will.

Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), projectionist, waiter and dark, anarchic genius. And it’s only the beginning of his plans for violent revenge on an empty consumer-culture world.

“People do it everyday, they talk to themselves… They see themselves as they’d like to be. They don’t have the courage you have, to just run with it,” Tyler says. “In the end, you will thank me.”


Do you know why Tyler says being hit in the ear is perfect?

Because something is better than nothing.

Pain is better than numbness.

Words – any words – are better than a blank page.

Fight club is a secret society that offers young professionals the chance to beat one another to a bloody pulp.

Writers have a secret society of their own. One of solitude and often loneliness. One that leaves scars no one can see, as we vomit up the words and pick at old scabs.

bradpitt_FCIn the movie, mayhem ensues, beginning with the narrator’s condo exploding and culminating with a terrorist attack on the world’s tallest building. It is caustic, outrageous, bleakly funny, violent and always unsettling. You cannot help but take notice.

The goal of every writer: for someone to take notice.

“I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect,” Tyler says. “I say let… let’s evolve.”

Yeah, it hurts. But that’s the point. Pain reminds us we’re alive. And that is what readers want.


Subscribe in the upper right hand corner and grab my free book A Writer’s Voice, designed to help you write like YOU. So you can say what you want to say, how you want to say it – and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks (and quit writing like a pretentious asshat). It matters.

Your relationship with the blank page

So, I stumbled across this slideshow by Mark Sherbin a few weeks ago and it struck me as fucking fantastical. Particularly for YOU. It’s called “The Marketer’s Guide to Writing A Book,” but it applies to every writer.

My unabashed goal is to help writers write. Whether that means pushing through fear or shattering bullshit excuses, you come here for advice. We have a nifty system going. Anyway, Mark’s slideshow talks about those things, as well as ways to generate content, stop freaking out, and settle into the idea that you can do it.

I like it. A lot. And you will too.

“You’re used to the blank page. You’ve maybe even grown quite fond of it. Like all strong relationships, you’ve had your ups and downs. But the two of you are together, for better or for worse,” Mark says. “There’s one line you won’t cross. Whatever unstructured ideas fill your white board or word processor page, you refuse to call it the start of a book. The very thought of writing a book, in fact, makes your mind shut off and your pen go dry.”

6952472683_9c779796b7_oFor the record, I asked Mark to get his ass over here and guest post about this. But he’s so freaking busy writing other people’s books, he couldn’t do it for a few weeks. I didn’t want you to wait that long, so he gave me the green light to share it.

It’s also worth noting that I despise slideshows because they are typically boring as fuck and don’t give enough information on their own – without the speaker present to fill in the gaps. That is NOT the case this time.

Consider slide #6: “You don’t need to make any commitment whatsoever. You barely even have to try. You’ve always had more than the chops to write a your own book — you’ve had the content.”

Or slide #10: “Imagine walking into a meeting and fielding a question with, ‘Actually, we wrote the book on that.’ ”

The remainder of the presentation talks about the content you already have – but don’t know about – and how to shape it into YOUR BOOK.

“Your existing content is an enormous start that cuts out those pesky first steps that haunt the nightmares of so many first-time authors. But it will only get you so far,” he says. “You’ll notice something missing. Actually, you’ll notice lots of things missing. At this point, you just need to fill in that missing information. This is actually pretty easy…”

Go here to check it out. And let me know what you think.


Mark Sherbin is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. You can reach him via TwitterLinkedIn, or email.