Writing Routines

Mateo Askaripour’s Writing Routine: “I called myself a writer when I began pursuing writing seriously.”

Mateo Askaripour is a Brooklyn-based author, best-known for his bestseller, Black Buck, his satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom at a successful startup.

I called myself a writer when I began pursuing writing seriously. Some people who have published books don’t feel comfortable calling themselves writers—imposter’s syndrome is real. But I came from a world where only the bold survived, so I took that energy into my journey as a writer, even though in the beginning, it may have been to my detriment.

The PEN Ten: An Interview with Mateo Askaripour | PEN America

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When Mateo Askaripour first started writing in 2016, he was working as the director of sales development at a tech start-up. Inspired by the industry’s fast-moving energy and “fail fast” mentality, Askaripour took that energy and applied it to his passion.

“With this ‘fail fast’ mentality, paired with no formal writing training to speak of, I began to write, and I wrote fast,” he wrote in Lit Hub. Over the next three years, the Brooklyn author pumped out three manuscripts, writing over 300,000 words while living at his parent’s house in his childhood bedroom.

In an interview with The New York Times, Askaripour credits his former sales role — which had him making over 200 cold calls a day — in giving him the grit and stamina to pursue his writing dreams. “You’re calling Charles halfway across the country who doesn’t know you from Adam, and it’s your aim to get him on the phone, keep him on the phone and either get him to buy your product or set more time for a longer conversation later,” he explained.

The first two manuscripts didn’t get anywhere, but the third, Black Buck, which “follows Darren Vender, a Starbucks employee who joins a new tech company and quickly transforms into “Buck,” the company’s best salesman—and only Black salesman,” became a hit, earning rave reviews from publications like Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post, Vulture, Elle, Vanity Fair, and plenty others.

Askaripour attributes the project’s success to his fast writing. “I began my third manuscript in January 2018. It took me about five months to complete the first draft, which came out to 160,708 words, eight months to work on a handful of other drafts before getting an agent, and roughly six months after that to get a book deal and some Hollywood movement,” he said.

“If I had hemmed and hawed, worrying myself over every little detail and listening to the prevailing advice that one needs to take time, years even, to produce a work of quality, I would have become stuck and likely have never published a book, or even completed my initial draft.”

Mateo Askaripour’s daily writing routine

When it comes to his writing routine and creative process, Askaripour says it all begins the night before — “before I go to sleep, I tell myself that I’m going to write the next day, so that I don’t even question it when I wake up,” he told PEN America.

“From there, my routine involves meditation; normal hygiene activities; eating the same breakfast with the same utensils—I know, this is getting a little wild—preparing yerba mate, which gets my heart pumping and creativity buzzing; watching two to three hours of music videos and movie trailers; dancing; and then, finally, bringing my fingers to the keyboard.”

But none of these matter as much as the fact that when Askaripour sits down to write, he’s focused solely on writing. “I’m not coming to the page with any hesitation, doubt, or anxiety,” he says. “My agent, editor, and other people—critics, bookstagrammers, award judges—are not in the passenger seat. It’s just me, a Word document, the story, and my characters.”

He keeps his writing set up simple: a small desk in the corner of his apartment. “After years of trial and error, I’ve found that I can only write in the room I’m living in at the moment—no coffee shops, libraries, parks, or any other public place for me,” he told Sit Down & Write.

For Askaripour, his goal is to dispel the image of the tortured artist waiting for inspiration to strike. “The idea that you need to spend years on papercuts and perspiration just to get a draft down—not a final version—is as ridiculous as all of the other expected behaviors for artists,” he wrote. “I eloquently sum up my feelings about all of those privileged and classist stereotypes and expectations in two words: fuck that.”

Askaripour also isn’t a fan of writing every day, preferring to write every weekday and have a couple of days off “to do other things allows my story and characters to percolate in the background,” he explains. “When I return to the page, I have more ideas and ways to make the work even better.” 

When it comes to stirring inspiration for his work, Askaripour built a system to make sure it’s a normal part of his writing routine. The author has a special Inspiration folder, “which contains 10-15 photographs of some of the people whose work and lives inspire me,” he explains. “I take a second to look into each of their eyes and tell them that I’m going to try my best to create as fearlessly, and serve others through my art, as they have.”

There are no rules to writing. Many people swear that there are, and that if you don’t follow them, you won’t be successful—but I call bullshit. No one owns the act of writing or any other form of creativity, and it’s when you allow yourself to create what you want, in the way you want, and for whom you want that you will come up with something that you’re not only proud of, but is also original. Originality isn’t dead; in fact, it’s alive and thriving within and around us.


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