The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad

by Adam Gnade

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Adam Gnade's The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad is a self-described "anti-depression guide/guide to a freer, more lawless life." Gnade's book looks at the root causes of sadness, anxiety, and general malaise/boredom and offers helpful point-by-point suggestions (in list form) and short essay pep-talks on how to move beyond your demons for a better, smarter, happier life. Like a letter from a trusted friend in the trenches, The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad will work with you through all phases of your life, thick and thin.


#1 Bestseller for 2013 in the Small Press section of Powell's Books, the largest independent book retailer in the world.

Also see the companion guide (digital only), Ringside!.





Rookie Mag tue 8/19 4:54am

Winter can be really tough on some people—and I’m not just talking about the cold weather. It’s proven by SCIENCE that reduced exposure to sunlight can be a total downer on our psyches. And for TONS of people, these downers never seem to go away. In this zine, Adam Gnade offers a kick in the pants for those of us struggling with anxiety and depression. He writes with such honesty and compassion that the zine reads like a long, fervent pep talk from a friend over records and comfort food. Even if you don’t struggle with the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad all the time, this is a good item to keep around for those moments when you’re feeling blue and need to be affirmed.

The Rumpus tue 8/19 4:53am

My dad loves to cook and he’s a bit of a mushroom fanatic so an online search for a unique holiday book led me here. And while I was there, I decided to look around a bit, as I’d never come across Pioneers Press before. And then I saw The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting The Big Motherfucking Sad by Adam Gnade. And I bought it.

The holidays are their own special, toxic mix of consumerism, hedonism and, let’s face it, absurdism. They also have a tendency to make me nostalgic and sad. So Adam’s self-described “anti-depression guide/guide to a freer, more lawless life” was the perfect find for me this month given how busy I’ve been.

The palm-sized pamphlet is organized into very short sections of “pep-talks” and point-by-point suggestions:


1) with friends you don’t love. There’s a big difference between “love” and “know.”

2) with books you can’t give your heart to.

3) with bands that don’t write for you. (But beware of bands that sing about “us.” Their us is their us. I have my own us and so do you. See: “Universality and co-opted micro-culture/community as marketing strategy.”)

4) with people who are playing you for status or scene cred. Note: Don’t schmooze. Ever. Be good to the good of heart. Fuck the rest. You don’t need them. Your life is busy as it is. Don’t waste your time with creepy fame-vampires.

5) with the bandwagon jumpers.

6) with anyone who doesn’t make up their own mind about a cause.

7) with anything that doesn’t make you better in its presence.”

One thing I love about small press books is they remind you that the writer is a real human being. Adam sent me a wonderful, personal note along with the book. His gratitude for my purchase was heartfelt and palpable.


Go outside. Scream your name into The Void. Sit in the sun and feel godlike. Cook a nine-course meal for your friends. Ride a train. Ride a bus. Smash something important. Climb a tree and read a book. WRITE a book. Be sweet to a baby and let them know all big people aren’t a) dead inside, b) angry, or c) afraid of adventure. Make your own everything. Stay up all night and walk around the city alone. Learn that you can be a patriot for the land while still hating the government (be a patriot for the deserts, the plains, the mountains, the buffalo, for Woody Guthrie and Frederick Douglas, for 250 years of good books). Find the best genius, which is the genius that speaks plainly. Grow something from a seed. Talk to a dog. Go visit a friend and throw your knife into a river. Sing. Sleep in. Quit your job. Make a zine. Start a war within yourself. Destroy all uncandid thought. Open your heart to the sky. Live.”

I like what Adam has to say about friends:

“I choose to stay here because I’m given reasons. Now, a lot of those reasons are mine, they’re private reasons, but here’s a reason I’ll share: the good people. The ones closest to my heart and the people who show me how to fight and remind me that there’s an option that outweighs the coward’s path. You can be a hermit and you can be an island, but when the paint gets stripped away, we are what we build up around us. We are the sum of our actions, our chosen environment, our loves, our pleasures. So, count on your friends. Have faith in your friends. Never let them forget that sometimes—in the worst, darkest, most fucked moments when the whole gale is howling around you—they are what keeps you here—alive and fighting.”

I bought more copies of the book and sent them to friends as holiday gifts. Adam wrote me another note. And he sent me a t-shirt and some buttons. I also bought his new novel.


The New York Times continues its small press shout-outs with A Strange Object.

Want to give the gift of a book that has not appeared on one of the hundreds of mainstream “best of” lists? Check out SPD Books, a non-profit distributor of small press literary books. Powell’s Books is also a wonderful resource. And don’t forget your local, independent bookseller.

Here’s an easy gift idea: think about something you read this year that you loved and reach out to thank the author personally. As a writer, you can’t imagine how nice it is to know that someone has been touched by your work.

Powell's Books 8/25/2013

Probably our most popular small press thing is this gem by Adam Gnade.

Justin Pearson (The Locust, Retox, ThreeOneG) 8/15/2013

A punctual reminder that boredom is counter-revolutionary as well as inspiration to live fast, die old by comrade Adam Gnade.

glasseswithcoffee.tumblr 7/24/2013

I’m pretty behind in updating what I’ve been reading, but I’ve also been busy as well (finally)!

This zine came in a few weeks ago, and right when I needed it. The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big, Bad, Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade is brilliant and came in the best wrapping. If you doubted the joys of the postal service, you never received an order from Pioneers Press. You need to get off Tumblr right now and get to ordering some of the coolest zines or books or patches from them RIGHT NOW and wait a few days to get something really beautiful and restore your faith in real life mail.

And if you’re one of those people that eschews small or local publishing houses for cheap deals on websites like Amazon, GET OFF THE INTERNET. Amazon will never send you a personalized message of thanks (thanks, Adam!), a free (HAND-COLORED!) button, and a “FIX SHIT UP" patch. It’s Christmas in July, folks.

[Disclaimer: Pioneers Press does not send better packages than your significant other. They come pretty close though. Iris, you send the best packages without a doubt. But even you know how good their packages are.]

So back to the zine. The best part about the guide is that it’s honest: Gnade tells you that you have to be prepared to fight, long and hard, to get through shit (any shit, all the shit that you can imagine, visible or invisible). And that’s difficult especially for someone who is struggling with depression or ennui or a really shitty living situation or a fall-out with a friend.

The suggestions that he makes aren’t groundbreaking either: Gnade tells you to stop staring at screens, stop “wasting time with friends you don’t love," and “read more than you drink." It’s probably something your friend has told you, or a mentor. The difference is Gnade’s honesty coming from his own experiences and understanding what it’s like to be there, in the void. It’s refreshing. It’s refreshing to hear someone say things can be undeniably shitty without the false optimism that things will get better. And it’s great to pair that truthfulness with things that are worth living for, or reminders of what to fight against or for.

Push heavy. Everyone Good is Necessary.

This is a zine I wish I had when I was in high school, and it’s the zine I wish could be in every high school library, counselor’s office, locker, or secret nook behind a bathroom stall or playground fence. Or the entire section “Fight Every Day" printed on a flyer pasted around town, or on a poster to tack to a ceiling as a reminder for what to do today. Because sometimes you don’t need an intervention, or a long dialogue with a friend. It’s enough to have a reminder sometimes.

And a reminder was just what I needed as a lost, fresh-out-of-college graduate who is tired of getting the “What are you doing next?" questions when they really mean “Are you worth anything now?" It’s been too easy waking up to watch TV to go to bed to waking up to watch TV. But now, my days have more meaning when I’m waking up to finally get out of this place, working on my zine projects, working on non-imaginary to-do lists, and fighting against the haters.

So, do yourself a favor and order from Pioneers Press. The packaging will make your day (plus the items, but really, the packaging is pretty much the best thing to get in the mail, other than love letters or hilariously bad postcards). 7/1/2013

i’ve been meaning to post about this zine for a while, and there’s nothing like a little incentive as motivation.

i had seen excerpts from it on my tumblr dashboard a few times in the past, and, finding myself fending off the big motherfuckin’ sad again, i bought it at the beginning of june.

friends, if you often find yourself feeling hopeless about everything (especially if you are creative) and have $5.50 to spare, buy this zine (if you have the extra seven dollars, upgrade your shipping to priority, and they throw in all sorts of wonderful extras [mine included a saw patch! it’s like they knew!]). even if you don’t have $5.50 to spare, buy a few less things at the grocery store this week and buy this instead.

it’s short. this is great because when you find yourself wanting to drive into oncoming traffic on a semi-regular basis, your desire to read anything longer than 100 pages is basically non-existent. and since it’s comprised of mostly lists and short essays and brief anecdotes, it’s a fast read. it’s well-written and relatable. it’s not written by a doctor or a psychologist or someone of similar ilk. he’s just a guy who has been depressed, writing about depression and giving you pep-talks to get you through it. by the end, you’ll want to be friends with adam gnade.

i read it before i went to sleep on the day it arrived. i was crying by the third paragraph. now, truth be told, it doesn’t take much to get me crying when faced with the big motherfuckin’ sad. but this was a different sort of crying. a “holy shit, somebody gets it" crying, and a “holy shit, things can be better" crying, which is good crying, because sometimes those things are things you can forget when fighting the big motherfuckin’ sad (especially if you’re a hermit with basically no friends in the immediate area). i put it in my bag the next morning. i take it with me everywhere. i read from it often. it’s inspired me to come up with the “thirty before thirty" list of thirty things i want to do before i turn thirty at the end of january (final list coming soon).

buy it. support small presses and farms and good people and fight the big motherfuckin’ sad.

Maximumrocknroll 6/15/2013

I love how-to guides. And lists, aphorisms, documenting human behavior and taking note of life's lessons. And this zine, which is all book-style text, is basically just that. I find the process of self-discovery/battling depression/writing to have a similar backbone, and the writer does too: You have to find your inner voice and trust it; you can't let the critics get to you or soon enough there will be no (real) "you" to speak of. He also stresses the importance of carpe diem ("Life is water through wet cloth"), notes that suicide is no relief (Sidenote: a study by Kay Jamison, psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University, showed that writers are 10 to 20 times as likely to suffer [manic-]depressive illnesses, making it more likely to lead to suicide) and suggests we "destroy all uncandid thought." His prose shows that he's a lover, but his dictums reveal he's also a fighter. Make no mistake, there is no Buddhist pulp, or anarchist thought here, and while this little zine might not teach you something new, it'll remind you of what not to forget. "The smart outlaw is the free outlaw. The free outlaw is the only outlaw." (Lydia Phelps) Pioneers Press c/o Adam Gnade / 816 Main #200, Lansing, KS, 66043

Fast Company 6/7/2013

There is hope in the jealous working world, coming from Pioneers Press, the certifiably badass bookbinders from the prairies of Kansas. They recently blogged a few selections from their zine The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad, which is, according to author Adam Gnade, an antidepression handbook and a "guide to a freer, more lawless life."

--Suzanne Lindgren, Utne Reader 6/2/2013

"If only Gnade had written this 15 years ago, and someone older and wiser had passed it along to me. From advice contained in lists like, 'Guide to Not Freaking Out All the Time," The Do It Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin' Sad is full of hard-earned wisdom. The best, most necessary thing about the zine is the implicit premise that if you're sad--depressed even--you, your brain, and your chemical imbalances are not the problem. Instead there's the subversive assumption that sadness, anxiety, anger, and depression are natural responses to our culture and the ways we're expected to relate to and interact with it." --Suzanne Lindgren, Utne Reader

Tobias Carroll, Volume 1 Brooklyn 5/30/2013

First up: Adam Gnade’s The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad. Gnade is a musician and writer, and much of what he talks about here echoes his experiences in both. There are general thoughts on fighting depression, and more specific references to his own life — whether travels he’s made or responses to being trolled. And there’s a long paragraph about Chicago that presses all the right buttons for me — references to Hit it or Quit It and Saul Bellow, which is not a bad thing at all. There are appearances by the music of Conor Oberst and Ray Raposa, which is equally notable — and helps root Gnade’s work here in a larger aesthetic.

–Dan Hartman, MD, the Sidewalk Psychiatrist 4/16/2013

Once loyal readers may have noticed I have not been posting too much recently. Not to say I haven’t thought about it . . . it just seems like between work and home and everything in between my creative juices were tapped just keeping things going. Life is like that, no? I have been reading, however. Lots. From business inspiration stuff from Hill and Tracy to life inspirational stuff from Izzo to spiritual inspirational stuff from Toltec, Buddhist and Christian traditions . . . Hell, I’ve even been clearing my clutter with Feng Shui! It is all good, and I am a better and wiser person for it. None of it, however, sparked my creative writing juices like the 27-page zine I was turned on to by a family member.

My biggest complaint about the titles available in the Self-Help genre is that they are too long. What sense does it make to write a 500 page self help book on ADHD or Depression when your intended audience struggles to get through a paragraph and remember what it said? People will continue to buy such things, however, with the hope that the next one will be THE BIG ONE . . . the one that lifts you out of the mess and sets you back on track. That attitude (and the hype of the publishing world that promotes it) inevitably leads to disappointment and a renewed sense of inadequacy in many of the people who buy such books. And who writes those books, anyway? Mostly people like me . . . well intentioned professionals who have lots of book and ‘in the trenches’ experience working with people who suffer. The books are written with the hope of helping people make the next step . . . get a little better . . . move on in life . . . but they are often too complicated and, as a reader of such things myself, it almost seems as if the writer were speaking from on high. From a “better place” that one can only hope to achieve someday.

The Do It Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad (hereafter referred to as TBMSad) is written from the practical perspective of someone who has struggled for years with Depression, and the ancillary feelings that come along with it. He summarizes his life experience with Depression, making it clear that he is someone who has been there. Someone who has struggled through and achieved some measure of peace with it. Depression continues to be a presence . . . but not the definition of who he is. He is, as a Japanese proverb says, a man who has fallen down seven times . . . and gotten up eight. What he has learned through the falling and the rising comes through in his text as a call to Fight the Fight. To do what you need to do to get to the next day. To keep yourself open to the knowledge that This Too Shall Pass. That beyond the dark is a sliver of light that is worth sticking around for . . . worth living for. TBMSad is not a definitive text on surviving Depression. It doesn’t have all the answers. It doesn’t preach and it doesn’t tell you how to live your life. TMBSad does remind you to remind yourself that, in the midst of the dark, you WILL see the light . . . you WILL make it to the other side of Sad with a little more wisdom and knowledge than when you went into it. It will remind you that it is worth it to Fight the Fight. It does this better than any book or article I have ever read, and I encourage you to visit the link below and get a copy . . . and one for someone you love.

avatar Kathleen MacPhee 4/6/2013

Adam Gnade has made a gift of himself with this little volume.

If you've ever been prone to debilitating bouts of sef-doubt, lying in bed for days on end, or just taking yourself too seriously to get out of your own way, you want to read this. Unlike most of the literature in the "self-help" genre, this zine is real, it's relatable, and it doesn't condescend. I've bought a couple now (plus a freebie :D ) and will likely buy more. Good good medicine. 4/5/2013

I’m a week late posting this due to a little vacation back home to Alabama, but here goes: I recently ordered a couple of zines from my favorite zine people Pioneers Press. First off, my stuff arrived within 4 days of placing the order, which is crazy fast! I bought 2 zines, the first being The Do-It-Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade. I finally got to read it last night, and damn. I wish I could have read this 6 months ago. Or 6 years ago. Anyone could appreciate this book, but it especially speaks to those of us who suck at normal jobs and just want to write, draw, or take pictures and make a modest living from it. If this book is nothing else, it’s comforting. Reading this was a similar situation to those late night talks you have with friends after several beers where you say things you’ve been dying to tell someone but couldn’t under the light of a sober sun. Two of the constant themes are two things that I wake up and fall asleep with, which are anxiety and self-doubt. Self-doubt in the sense that what you love to do will never be good enough and that an un-fulfilling job is your ultimate destiny. It has several verses on things like dealing with criticism, haters, the internet, and solving the age-old grips of boredom (which luckily I haven’t felt in a really long time.)

For me, probably the most important and relevant part of this book is a section that provides some answers and clarity on what is perhaps the most frustrating thing ever. We’re all aware of the various people and sources out there that just say “fuck it, quit your job!” but then just leave you hanging and give no insight as to what happens after you tell yourboss to suck it. This is the part that I’ve really started embracing and busting my ass on the last several months, which is building your own little empire by making zines, opening an online store, etc. Ever since I started putting plans in motion and taking those small but crucial steps, I’ve never felt better about the future. I still worry constantly about student loans and hospital bills, but I’ve never felt more in control of my own destiny and well-being. If you’re in that middle phase where you have ideas but aren’t sure where to get started, I strongly encourage you to get this book! You won’t be disappointed. You can do it.

Utne Reader 3/28/2013

The $5.50 you spend on this zine could save you a whole lot on doctor bills and pills. Plus, it’s really fun to read.

Quimby's 3/20/2013

Survival check-ins to thwart the inner monsters.

Will Potter, Green is the New Red 3/20/2013

Get a few for your friends, but keep one for yourself when you need an uplifting kick in the ass.

tooshortpants.tumblr 3/20/2013

This is The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade, and the day I got it I read it through twice. I highly recommend it to anyone who:

* is surprised they’re still alive
*creates art, only to repeatedly throw it out because it’s “not good enough”
*thinks they’re destined to be alone forever
*doesn’t know where they’ll be in 5 years
*feels like their life just doesn’t fit them
*hasn’t left the house in 6 weeks
*has ever posted anything sad on the internet, secretly hoping someone out there would hear them
*is so fucking tired

“Don’t sabotage yourself. There are enough people out there who’ll do it for you. Don’t let the assholes win.”

Ingrid, Magpie Librarian 3/20/2013

[Adam Gnade’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad] made me cry on the Q train, but in a “Holy crap, somebody gets me and my specific brand of sad” kind of way. I don’t want to call it depression anymore. It’s a big motherfuckin’ sad and I’m going to kick its ass.

There’s amazing advice for bloggers on here: “Do not, under any circumstances, read the comments. “Anonymous” is not a real person. “Anonymous” is disappointment, weakness fighting back, and envy at its worst. The people who talk shit and complain and stick their nose in your business on the internet don’t hate you, they hate themselves” (p. 5). One of my favorite snippets reminded me of battling the library budget: “No matter how beat-up you feel, you are at your best when you’re fighting” (p. 4).

Buy a copy for yourself. Keep it in your bag or in your desk at work. Buy a mess of copies and gift it to friends who are having a hard time. It’s four bucks you won’t be sorry you’ve spent. Adam doesn’t say that everything’s going to be OK always. He tells you what you already know: life is painful and life is hard, but life is also “good and right and sweet.” I am so happy I have a copy of this. It’s my new security blanket.

Dakota Floyd, 3/20/2013

Last year Adam Gnade wrote a really great zine about dealing with depression, being bummed out, and squaring off with the “big motherfuckin’ sad.” Said zine was my favorite out of all of the ones I read last year (and that’s a lot).

Well, it’s a new year and a new season and Adam is back with a second extended edition of his DIY Guide. I didn’t think the original could be improved on very much, but boy was I wrong. This new second edition features nearly double the content and cleaner printing.

This is a really important zine. Buy a copy for yourself, your friends, your family, that stranger you always see who has eyes that are even more tired than yours — anybody.

Right now you can get The DIY Guide… exclusively from Pioneers Press. This is their first published title, and oh man is it a good one to start on. Not only will you be getting an excellent zine, but you’ll be supporting some really great people.

Please get a copy of this.