Today's Topic:
The Twelve Steps of Being a Writer

Step One: Read like a nerd on brain steroids. Discover that books can introduce you to people, places, ideas, and experiences you would probably not encounter any other way. Learn to love the written word.

Step Two: Fool yourself. Say to yourself, "I bet I could write something that is as good as, better than, or different from what I have read. After all, how hard could it be?"

Step Three: Override your instincts. When you first sit down to write, your body, brain, and subconscious will tell you that there are many more interesting and important things you could be doing other than writing. This is because your body, brain, and subconscious are smarter than you. They know that writing is quite possibly a complete waste of time. Do it anyway.

Step Four: Develop your craft. When you have completed your first article, story, poem, or book, you will undoubtedly be proud. That is, until you read it a month later. Then you will realize what a piece of garbage it is and either rework it or start something new. Developing your craft should consume roughly ten years of your life. Each day during that time, you will learn about one (out of the many billion possible) punctuation and grammar errors you can make. You will be mortified because everything you have created up to that point includes the kind of mistake you have just discovered. You may find that punctuation and grammar become so overwhelming that the very thought of writing a sentence can leave you paralyzed with fear. Eventually, you might be able to produce work that does not make your hair fall out when you go back and look it over, but you will never stop finding ways to screw it up.

Step Five: Write query letters and proposals. Unless you know someone in the business, the traditional way to get your work to the attention of editors, publishers, and agents is to send out query letters and proposals. It should take roughly a month to write your first one of these. Most of that time will be spend agonizing over how the people who read it will react. This process involves the vast majority of your insecurities coming to the surface.

Step Six: Throw your query letters and proposals in the trash. You are competing against hundreds of thousands of other writers for the attention of a meager supply of agents, publishers, and editors, each of whom is swamped with work from people like you. The reason you might as well discard your query letter or proposal is that the odds of someone taking interest in what you have to offer is just as likely as one of them coming to your house and digging your work out of the trash. When you put it directly into the waste bin, you save on postage.

Step Seven: Become obsessed. When you first began to write, it took discipline. Now, you can't help it. Ideas come to you at two in the morning and you wake up to jot them into a notepad. If your significant other has not left you yet, he or she may roll over and mutter something about being with a "normal person." You find that you talk about fictional characters you developed as if they were real. The things that are important and things you enjoy take a backseat to getting an idea down on page. Everything you see and experience becomes fodder for your writing. You realize that if you lived to be fifty thousand years old, you would not get everything out of your head and down on paper, especially since your head is always creating new material. This is the step at which many writers become alcoholics.

Step Eight: Listen to people who don't know what they're talking about. People who have no idea what it is to write will feel inclined to tell you all about your chances at getting published and making money. "Just be persistent," they say, "and you will succeed," as if there is some kind of cosmic guarantee that this will happen. They will often point to someone in the writing profession who succeeded after years of rejection, unaware that the success of that person is a complete freak of nature. Keep in mind that the point of such comments is not to give you hope, but to suggest that you are probably doing something wrong.

Step Nine: Lose money. Up to this point you have spent huge amounts on postage, computers, paper, ink cartridges, and writer's conferences. Now, due to chance more than anything else, you may or may not have sold one of your books. If you have, you will still lose money. After a book is sold, you will only get ten percent of your book's profits, even though you created the content of the book and have poured your heart and soul into it. The rest of the money goes to agents, publishers, and distributors. The ten percent that you do make from your book will go towards publicity, because publishing houses now expect writers to provide their own. Yes, they are taking advantage of you and getting rich off your hard work. Hey, you're the one who chose to be a writer!

Step Ten: Change your personality. Most writers are introverts, but publishers want everyone who writes to be able to go on book tours and appear in the media. Hello! What about "introvert" don't they understand?

Step Eleven: Become bitter. Regardless of whether you have sold a book by this point or not, being bitter is appropriate behavior.

Step Twelve: Die in poverty. Go to your grave, uncompensated for a lifetime of work and unrecognized for your genius. If only you had given up writing a long time ago, this could have all been prevented. There is no happy ending. Sorry.