How to Become a Writer in 7 Steps

7steps1. Get a job you hate. Sit inside at a cubicle or a windowless office staring at a computer all day. Feel desperate, like a feral cat locked inside.

2. Quit. Chew off your leg; you were a raccoon in a trap. Leaving your leg behind is you shedding yourself of those false notions that suggest happiness will come when you are rich, powerful, driving X car, the boss, etc. You will feel like you are failing at first, but just remember that you are actually getting free.

3. Marry someone who wants you to do what you love. Marry the one who, thirteen years into marriage, talks to you for an hour about how there truly is no other path for you. Marry the one who tells you he’d never, ever want you to give up. When you protest, listen to him when he says, “Don’t worry about the money. Don’t ever worry about the money.”

4. Write. Write reams. Fill boxes and suitcases with your writing. Write a practice novel for at least a year. Write short stories. Write poems. Write essays. Rewrite them. Send them out. Don’t get comfortable when you have early success. Get used to rejection. Take the feelings out of it.

5. Apply to a low-residency MFA program. If you get in, find a way to go. Not because this will guarantee anything. But because it will enrich your life in ways you can’t imagine and you will meet your writing soul sisters. You three will call upon each other in your darkest hours as well as in your finest.

6. Have babies. Know that this will fuck everything up. You will wonder when you will ever have solid time to write. You will cry because you can’t even see straight let alone write something halfway decent. Your time, for years, will not be your own. There are important lessons in this time of giving, giving, and giving. Those lessons will help you learn, later, much later, that it’s just as important to give back to yourself.

7. Write a book. The story that is your story–the one you know needs to be shared. About being so low down you longed to die. About your mom and dad who reached down into that molten black mass and pulled you back up with all their might. Write about the trees and the sky and the dog who helped you remember that there were things worth living for.

Write that book. Let it sit. Rewrite that book. Send it to a few readers. Let it sit. Listen. Rewrite it again. And continue…

5 thoughts on “How to Become a Writer in 7 Steps

  1. Hi Julie,
    I just learned about you from Helen Potter (book group friend). I am an aspiring writer. Correction: I am a writer. But I know you know what I mean. I have been considering applying for a low-residency MFA but have not been able to pull the trigger for reasons that include things like, “My son has a basketball game . . . . in January.” I’m serious. Thank you for the inspiration from this post!

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