Use this technique for: when you are really, really, really pissed off about something.
Starting point: when you need to get something off your chest.
Stopping point: when it’s off your chest.
Fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you and by the way FUCK YOU.
Free writing is a fine way to vent, to allow those thoughts racing through your head a place to park themselves so you can stop thinking them over and over again.
The Shit Book is all venting, all the time. The Shit Book is the toxic waste dump for the thoughts you really don’t want to be thinking. Use it when something is bothering you so much it is physically hurting you and you can feel that odd ache in your chest that won’t go away with distractions or deep breathing. Use it when you find yourself mentally rehashing past arguments, trying to get that one last word in. Use it to write the things you wish you could say to someone, but know you’d get in trouble for saying.
My personal Shit Book is a smallish blue spiral bound notebook with a Mr. Yuk-like face scrawled on the cover. It’s lasted me for many years, since I only haul it out for extreme situations and I have gone for long stretches without needing it at all.
The rules for the Shit Book are as follows:
1. Confine it to one book specifically for Shit Book purposes. Do not use your regular diary or journal for this.
2. Write in pencil. This isn’t anything you want to preserve for future generations and the last thing you need is your pen to run out when you’ve got a rant going.
3. Hold absolutely nothing back. Whoever or whatever you are angry at, this is no time to be polite or reasonable. They’re never going to read it. Be as petty, bitter, vicious and selfish as possible. Throw a tantrum. Dredge up every insult in the book and add in a few new ones. Write things you don’t even really mean, but that you want to say because you’re that pissed off. Write down all the ways you could take revenge if you were that kind of person. Get every ounce of it out of you.
4. Be egocentric. For heaven’s sake, do not use this technique to beat up on yourself! Place yourself at the center of the universe and everybody else beneath you for the length of this exercise. Even when you rationally know that you have your own part in whatever mess you’re in, this is not the time and place for acknowledging that. Blame everybody and everything but you and go to town with it.
5. Write until the ache dies down. It may take a paragraph, it may take pages, just keep going until all the venom has been properly purged.
6. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT REREAD IT. Put it this way—rereading what you wrote in your Shit Book is like drinking your own vomit. It came out of you for a reason, and taking it back in is just going to make you sick all over again. I speak from unfortunate experience on this one—trust me, it is really for the best to leave the words on the page and never return to them. Turn the book to a new page and put it away for when you need it again. I intend to destroy my current Shit Book when I’ve eventually filled it out, because there’s nothing in there that needs to be kept.
A variation on this is the Angry Letter. Abraham Lincoln reportedly used this technique—he would write angry letters and then toss them in the stove to be consumed by the flames. They’re traditionally directed at people, but you can also direct them at groups of people or even more abstract notions. (“Dear Educational System . . .”) The game is pretty much the same as the Shit Book—spew out all rage, hold nothing back, write until done—and then you can sign it, if you are so inclined, and then rip the letter to bits and dispose of it. Incineration optional.
The Internet would probably be a much calmer place if more people used Shit Books instead of doing the same thing with the “Reply” function.
A revised version of this entry can be found in the ebook Catbooks and Other Methods.