Tuesday, October 6, 2009

12 Step Program for Writers

Being a writer is a tough life to pursue. Inevitably you find yourself battling the “amicrazies” and questioning everything you are doing. We’ve all been there. Living in those moments when running away to Mexico and joining the circus seems like a more viable career choice, if you could just figure out how to shoot yourself out of a cannon without inflicting mortal injury.

Have no fear. I introduce to you a twelve step program to recovery for the aspiring writer. Follow all twelve steps and you will successfully overcome the “amicrazies” and find solace in the fact that you are not alone.

Step #1: Acceptance

First and foremost you must accept the fact that indeed you are crazy. You have to be to pursue a career as a writer. It’s how you get your ideas and what drives you to keep plugging along for that $5 token payment for ten hours worth of work.

Step #2: Say it out loud

Visit your local writer’s group and repeat after me “My name is (insert the name of your commonly accepted identity, real or implied, but otherwise held accountable for acts committed to paper). I am Crazy. I love to write and write I must.” Relish in the gratuitous round of applause that undoubtedly will follow.

Step #3: Say hi to caffeine

You’ve found a group who accepts you for the whacko you are. Now it’s time to ingest large amounts of caffeine and affix yourself to your typewriter/computer/stone tablet. There’s no other way.

Step #4: Buddy up

No one can go it alone. I know the stereotype is the loner writer versed in catspeak hidden behind vicariously overflowing bookshelves and discarded bottles of (insert drink of choice here). In reality, the writing community is honest, open, large, and supporting of all aspiring writers. Get in there and start mingling. Whoa, slow down. You’re invading my bubble.

Step #5: Know that it’s a journey, not a destination.

Writing is an ongoing activity. The path to recovery can’t be found overnight. It’s a long road filled with heartache, deleted scenes, occasional bouts of useless sobbing, and maybe even a three city action scene if you are truly feeling industrious.

Step #6: Rough drafts are supposed to be rough; otherwise they’d be called smooth drafts

Genius doesn’t happen the first go round (unless, of course, you’re me—just kidding). It takes several passes to get it down right. It even takes multiple sets of eyes reviewing it multiple times to get it right. One suggestion, use people with eyes inside their head to review your work. Just passing eyes over you paper isn’t very productive, can sometimes be messy, and is illegal in at least three states.

Step #7: Get connected

All the cool kids are doing it. Not enough? Getting connected through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Linkedin lets you stay on top of the latest trends and news in the publishing world. Agents, publicists, magazines, editors, and other authors are actively tweeting, facebooking, and otherwise overwhelming the electronic airwaves with useful information and tips. Plus, if you’re addicted to videos of babies dancing and useless trivia you may find yourself in terminal dependency.

Step #8: Become like Grasshopper

I don’t mean aimlessly jumping in random patterns that repeatedly bring you back underneath the shoe you are trying to avoid. I mean become a student. Read about writing. Read about the business of writing. Attend workshops, get subscriptions to Writer’s Digest, and look for opportunities to advance your knowledge of the industry. If you insist on jumping around, you can do it so long as you’re making your way to the nearest learning opportunity.

Step #9: You must submit!

I don’t mean total domination (although that is my endgame). No, I mean you’re never going to be a published author if you never submit anything! Go ahead, take the plunge. Send that great story to the magazine or agent you’ve been eyeing from across the internet. Just remember to follow their guidelines, be courteous and gracious, and did I mention to follow their guidelines?

Step #10: There are other fish in the sea.

Okay, so you took the plunge and got your heart ripped out, stepped on, thrown in a blender set on mutilate, and doused with lemon juice (graphic, but true). Frame that rejection. Put it up on your wall and scream with fists waving “I’ll show you!” Accept the fact that, just like the blue eyed honey in tenth grade, it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe you both weren’t in the right place. Maybe, deep down, that agent or magazine just didn’t have the right “je ne sais quoi.” Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get back in that saddle (sorry, I AM a Texan).

Step #11: Shake that money maker

Whohoo! After several nights of fist waving and a hundred more submissions you finally found an agent/publisher who sees you for the ass-kicking, wordsmith you are. Shake what your mama gave you and rejoice in the fact that you stuck it out, pursued your dream, and are reaping the rewards of your hard work. Ignore the Bravo inspired outbursts and tantrums that occurred along the way.

Step #12: Share the Love

Now that you have made it through the eleven rings of hell, it’s time to pay it forward. The student must become the master (and the student). Share the heartache, trials, and mistakes you have made with others. Let them know they’re not alone and that if they truly want to pursue a career in writing they must understand that to do so is crazy (see step #1) but damn well worth it!


  1. Nice! Entertaining, but OH SO TRUE! Shennandoah, you have a true flare! I look forward to your next article!