Monday, January 2, 2012

The Writer's 12 Step Program

I "teach" a Story Symposium once a month for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon. As is typical of these "teaching" experiences, the first 1/2 of the class (first semester, first year) goes swimmingly, and everyone does their homework, and comes prepared. (Well, mostly.) 

Then comes the transition (after the theory) to actually write their own stuff and prove their substance -- or to justify their reason for occupying space and depleting the Earth's resources (like food and oxygen). It happens every time to me -- students fall-off like flies deprived of sugar. We need a transformation, but it only happens if the student writer has a passion for what they're writing or their career. Like I say about a good story. You need a passionate writer and a passionate protagonist. Without both you have nothing. 

So, my Story Symposium Class is struggling with this stage. We're meeting this Saturday for our first W.A. Meeting. That's "Writers Anonymous" ... as in the 12 Steps. And here they are:

The Writer’s 12 Steps to Getting It Done

  1. I admit that I am powerless to write like I should—that my creative life has become desolate and unmanageable through disuse.
  2. I believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity, and get my quota of words written each and every day. 
  3. I have decided to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understand Him.
  4. I daily search my life and make a fearless moral inventory of my motivations and whatever else has prevented me from applying my butt to a chair and my fingers to the keyboard.
  5. I admit to God, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs from the previous step.
  6. I am entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character so that I will complete the story that God has set before me.
  7. I humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings and expect a completed work in the not too distant future.
  8. I have made a list of all persons we I have harmed by not living up to and disciplining my creative potential, and I am willing to make amends to them all.
  9. I have made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. I continue to take personal inventory and when I am wrong I promptly admit it.
  11. Through prayer and meditation (or medication, depends on how bad off you are) I seek to improve my conscious contact with God praying only for knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out in my creative life of writing.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, I will carry this message to other writers, and to practice these principles in all my affairs.
BTW: The 12 Steps of A.A. are sometimes used as the basic structure (or inspiration) of a story; MY NAME IS EARL is a great example.


James Manogue said...

I think your Program is great. For some reason you keep popping up in my life with good things at a beneficial time. And, of course, the need we all share is the need to be honest and to actually sit down to write. I always remember now, though, that my need to write may not be as valuable to God as it is to me. I subject myself to his will first, and then to the will of my writing.
Thank You for sending this out.

Stan Williams said...


Of course these are the 12 Steps for Alcoholics Anonymous that I've liberally adapted. You correctly sensed that for those of us who feel we are called by God and Providence to write, we need to discipline ourselves to write.

This opens up the question:
"What is God's will for my life?" (or in coming-of-age story lingo) "Who am I and what am I suppposed to be doing?"

I give a workshop every few years (there's not much demand) for knowing God's will. The log line, in two sentences, is this: (1) Obey God with respect to his moral law, such as the Ten Commandments. That is the most important and is akin to the first of the two great commandments: Love God. (2) Develop your inherent talent until it becomes a refined skill, and then use it to bring good into the world. That is, leverage your passions to become good at something you enjoy for the betterment of others. And that is the second of the two great commandments: Love your neighbor. Both (1) and (2) are a life long process.

Venus MasonTheus said...

This is so helpful. I'm sharing it with my writers groups. Thank you for posting!