Mind Disease Kills Writer: The Deadly Patterns – A Last Thing on Step Five

Step 5 – Admitted to the world, to another person, and to ourselves the exact nature of our disease

It_Takes_a_Village_imageBottom line is this. Do you have someone to talk with about your writing life? Do you have someone you can share your doubts, fears, and resentments with?

If not, I’d find someone. I have a whole group. But for me, it takes a village.

Now, you want to be a little careful with this. You want someone who is supportive, who can listen, but who is also not afraid to ask questions, or point out where you might be off in your thinking. I have poor thinking sometimes, and I need help to get my mind set straight. In my head, working on four books at the same time makes perfect sense. In reality, that’s a stretch.

As we share our fourth-step inventory with that lucky, supportive person, what we are doing is looking for patterns of behavior or thought that are self-destructive.

This is why we shouldn’t burn our fourth step inventory because it really is a treasure map. Unfortunately at the end, there isn’t buried treasure, only weird, twisted thinking generally. No gold there. It’s far more icky.

It’s amazing what happens once you get your resentments and fear on paper, and then actually read what you wrote to someone else. Things become clear. You can see things that you believe that are simply not true.

For example, I truly believed that out of the five billion people on earth, I was destined to fail in everything I ever tried. It was set in iron. Is this true? Hardly. And yet I believed that unquestioningly. Without a shred of real evidence. I was deluded.

Another idea I had, that I truly believed, was that if I couldn’t be the best, right out of the gate, I just wouldn’t play. I love the idea of the “natural” genius. I think it comes from watching waaaaayyyyy too many movies. In the movies, the hero becomes awesome in a montage scene. A little Rocky Balboa music, a little running, and they are ready to defeat the villain. I WANT THAT! Real life takes too much time.

But I walked away from a lot of things because I wasn’t good at them right away. My thinking caged me. I had no idea I thought this way until I looked at it.

I was haunted by demons, especially around my writing. I had lived a lifetime of fear and terror without ever actually failing.

I had to get a list of my character defects, the exact nature of my disease, before I could start to heal from it and rise above my defective head.

It’s by going through our fifth step that we get the tools to write our list of character defects. And it’s through steps sixth and seven that we get some freedom from those character defects. Self-knowledge is one thing, but I need help from a power greater than myself.



Step 5 Pt. 4: I Am Not Unique; One Writer’s Story is All Our Stories

Step 5 – Admitted to the world, to another person, and to ourselves the exact nature of our disease


Last week I talked about first sales panels at writers conferences and the funny thing, most of the time I completely discount other people’s experiences. Totally. Do you know why?



Because I have this deep-seated notion that I am unique. No one is like me. Only one Aaron Michael Ritchey ever born, that’s me, and if you think anything you say matters to me it doesn’t.



Kinda’ like my favorite joke.

How many VietNam vets does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

You don’t know ‘cause you weren’t there, man.

Ain’t nobody been Aaron Michael Ritchey.

But it’s a stupid idea to think that I am so unique. As a person or as a writer. That’s the thing with the first sales panels—their story is my story. Or could be. If I keep working and keep trying.

From what I’ve seen, it takes about five to six years to get published once you really set your mind to do it. Really commit. Then it takes another twenty to get on the New York Times Bestseller List. And that can happen to writers. Happens to writers all the time. Why not me?

Why not?

I’m just a writer, after all.

And that’s the power of the 5th step. Once I shared all of my foibles with another person, once I got everything on paper and out in the open, I realized I wasn’t unique, or alone. That I’m a person, a writer, and other people feel the same things I feel. The successful ones find a way through the fear and pain. Those are the people I need to talk to and the stories I need to hear.

If I focus on the similarities and not the differences, I can get to a place where success as a writer is possible. If I focus on the differences, then I’m doomed, doomed I tell you! Doomed to be alone. Doomed to be a failure. Doomed forever!

But that’s not the case. That’s why I can talk to writers so easily. They are my people.

So cowboy up, all you happy writers, because we’re leaving Step 5 and going on to Step 6. This is where the hardcore part of the program hits.

Steps 6 and 7 ain’t for sissies!


Stand Together or Die Alone: Step Five, Part 3

Step 5 – Admitted to the world, to another person, and to ourselves the exact nature of our disease

Back when I started going to writers conferences, I would always attend the first-time published sessions and listen to the experiences of those lucky few that got published. Here I was in the darkest cesspool of obscurity, scribbling in the dark, but these writers, these people, they had made it!
Writers Conference

Ha. Not sure we ever really make it. Will Stephenie Meyer write another novel, or have the haters hated her right into a cesspool I can only dream about? That of the despised, successful writer.

But back to the First Published panels at writers conferences. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see these other writers succeed. Usually, I’m a very envious person, but hearing their journeys, for some odd reason, I didn’t focus on that. I focused not on the differences, but on the similarities. They struggled. They fought. And they made it. To getting published. As my friend Linda Rohrbough says, the game changes at every stage. And they were honest.

Listening to that honesty, I knew I wasn’t alone. And I could keep struggling and fighting.

Part of Step 5 is baring our souls and letting another person see how completely wacky we are. But there’s another part. The person who listens gets to share. And the stories we tell each other during the Step 5 process are priceless. I’m scared, you’re scared, we’re Nickelback+When+We+Stand+Together+2011both scared. Doesn’t mean we stop. No, once you have two people sharing their fear, the fear is lessened. I think that’s where the idea came from of when two people meet, there is God in that meeting.

Together we can do things we can’t do alone.


One of the best things that’s ever happened to me at a writers conference came when I ran into a guy who had just come from a terrible pitch session. He blew it. The fail was epic! White-faced, he was wandering the halls and we started talking.

He explained how horrible it had been. And right then, I could look him in the eye and say, “Yeah, I know. Here’s what happened to me.” I talked to him just like how Linda Rohrbough talked to me after my meeting with an agent went terribly, terribly wrong.

That’s the power that community has. That’s the amazing synergy that can happen if I reach out and engage with other people. But I’m a dark-souled sort. I need to remember that I need to share my victories as well as my defeats. That yes, my inventory is of the darker bits of who I am, but there are many sides to life and to me. I need to remember to celebrate when it’s time to celebrate. I had a rough time with that one.

One last thing. I’m choosy about who I let into the little circle of my life. Some people won’t understand, or they’ll try and preach.

hair on fireDon’t tell me what to do. Not even if I’m on fire. The minute you say, “Oh, you should put out the fire that’s burning on your head!” I will let that fire burn me to cinders.
But if you say, “Yeah, this one time, my head was on fire, and it hurt. Jesus, it hurt.”
I’ll listen closely to what you are saying. Because you’re not talking about me. You’re not preaching. You’re sharing about what happened to you.

And then, when you say, “Yeah, my head was on fire, and I got a bucket of water, and oh, it felt so good to douse the flames.” Then, I’ll go looking for a bucket. I can learn from your experience, not your preaching.

I love stories. Tell me a story, and I’ll learn.

So find a close group of people you trust, share what’s going on, and above all, keep working. Keep writing. Keep creating.

Because no one will read the book you don’t write.

One last thing on Step 5 next week.