Step 5 – Admitted to the world, to another person, and to ourselves the exact nature of our disease.
Writing is a solitary thing. No, really. One of my favorite bits from the The Simpsons is the summer where Bart breaks his leg. And he’s alone. And he gets weird. At one point, Lisa invites him out for something, and Bart, reduced to a pale, raccoon-eyed creature, hisses at her, “No, Lisa, I can’t. I’m working on my play.”
Spending large amounts of time alone is not good for human beings. We get strange. But as a writer, that’s one of the job hazards. I got used to being alone, though, even before I chose to write in every spare second I had.
I grew up in the basement of my house watching TV and working on my play. I was pale. I had dark circles under my eyes. And I was alone. I built multiverses out of legos. I read dark tomes. I watched Happy Days. Lots of Happy Days. Real life couldn’t compete with all that alone time.
I can still go there, and so I can write books. If I had been more well-adjusted and popular, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be a writer. What’s done is done, though.
The thing is, after I wrote in isolation for years and years, fourteen years and hundreds of thousands of words later, I wasn’t making much progress. And I was lonely.
Somehow, I got the idea that writers were like high school theatre people. Not sure where I got that. It’s not the truth. I was driven to meet other writers because I was desperate to improve and I needed help. So I reached out.
We write alone, but we are not alone.
All of that is a long intro to Step Five. Step Five in its basic form is reading our inventory out loud to another person. A real-life person. Someone who can listen and keep quiet about what they heard. Some people use priests for this. Others call 411. True story, someone dropped an inventory on the poor gal working the information desk.
The process of reading our inventory, listing our inventories, admitting to our petty resentments, makes it real. As we read, we are admitting to ourselves what is really going on. Another person bears witness and represents the world. Get out your rosary beads, light the incense, get your Catholic on—this is a confession.
We’ll talk more about step five next week.