Step Two Continued: Atheists Are Writers Too!

Step 2 – Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Okay, I took kind of a long break, but well, you know, life happens. Stupid life.

Let’s recap. For me, a sane writer works to improve their craft, writes on a schedule, and markets themselves and their writing with very little drama. A sane writer lives with the belief that if they continue to write, they will become better.


Now, above, I don’t say the word “God.” But “power greater than” certainly points to some kind of divine force.

Oh, I have such a hard time with the God idea. I’m kind of an all-or-nothing type of guy, and if there is a God, I would want magic fireballs tumbling out of the sky and filling me with inspiration and hope. Some people have had that experience, heck, I’ve even had some of those experiences, but for me to be satisfied, burning bushes would have to happen every day of the week. Yeah, God would have to be a Vegas nightshow act to keep me interested.

However, there are a variety of powers greater than myself that are active in my life. For example, my critique group is a power greater than myself. Maybe for some, maybe for most, they can create by themselves and churn out Shakespearean perfection, but not me. I need an outside eye, a fresh look, a power greater than myself.

Not to say I take everything my critique group says as gospel. Nope. I joke that I get their comments, and then I run it by the committee. Yes, I have a group of voices in my mind, and that group gets to decide on what comments I take and what comments I bid adieu. So even by myself, there is a power greater than myself running amok in my head. A good critique will stick in your craw, and you’ll fight, but in the end, you’ll have to embrace what’s right. And you’ll know. That deep part of yourself will know what is gold and what is complete cow crap.

And as a writer, the entire writing industry is a power greater than me, but that industry, while bent on making cash dollars, is also full of people passionate about books. Yes, there are some evil frakking people out there, but from my experience, most have good hearts and love stories. They can help. Sometimes. Again, the committee gets the final say.


Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of the wonderful Pay It Forward, was told by a well-meaning agent to change her book and have nice people pay it forward to other nice people. Ugh. Part of what makes the book so powerful is taht the people are gritty, real, and not antiseptic clones.  Yeah, Ms. Hyde ignored that bit of “helpful” advice.



The most important part of Step Two is to let outside forces have a peek into your work and into your creative life and then be open to suggestions. A sane writer can take a good critique. And a sane writer knows when people are either stupid, evil, or useless. And you’ll encounter that. Just nod, and say thank you. A lot. I learned that from one of the old warrior writers in my critique group. Just say thank you. Don’t argue. Don’t fuss. Don’t explain. Just say thank you and move on.

In the end, the committee will decide. Or, for those with certain beliefs, the whisper of the Sacred Heart of Jesus inside you will be the final judge. Or Ganesha. I love Ganesha. The elephant-headed God of writers, thieves, and miracles. Which pretty much sums up the writer’s life.
Be open to following directions. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Wouldn’t it be cool if you were writing and Ganesha appeared? How awesome would that be?

Again, for me to be satisfied, he’d have to show up every day. With flowers. Vegas showtime, baby, or don’t even bother.

What Does a Sane Writer Look Like? Step Two and Finding Hope

Step 2 – Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

So we’ve spent weeks talking about step one, which is all about despair and being broken. I’m powerless and my life is unmanageable. I can’t do it alone. I need help.

Cool. Now, the despair drives us out of the smelly basement of our misery and up into the kitchen of hope. Kitchens are hopeful places, yeah? That’s why everyone gathers there during parties.

Step two is all about hope. We came to believe that “something” could fix us. I ain’t gonna talk about God. Okay, maybe I will a little.

A little God. Just a little pinch between your soul and mind, or cheek and gum, or something. God as chewin’ tobacco. Yeah. I can dig it.

Notice how this step says a power greater than ourselves. For some, that is gonna be the full-on trinity: Father, Son, and Paraclete (not parakeet, you slackers, look it up). For others, it might be the other trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. For others, the other other trinity, their editor, agent, and critique group. But the idea is this: we can find help and comfort if we search for it.

I blogged recently about the idea that God can be used as a tool to help us break out of our small thinking and embrace a more creative, unknown path. The “God Idea” can give us thoughts or ideas that we might not have had unless we sought sources of strength and inspiration outside of ourselves.

Step two is about finding the courage and hope that we can be better, that we can be restored to sanity. But what is sanity? What does a sane writer look like?
Everyone is gonna define sanity a little differently, and every writer is going to be sane in a different way.

I’ll tell you what I think a sane writer looks like. A sane writer writes consistently. If I didn’t have to battle my own demons every time before I wrote, I would write every day. If there wasn’t all this drama, I wouldn’t have fantasies of the perfect time to write, and I would write when I could. Might be fifteen minutes. Might be hours on end. But I would be writing consistently.

And a sane writer puts the work first. It’s not about the fame, the money, the glory, it’s about creating quality pages. Not a lot of drama. Not a lot of gnashing teeth in the darkness. Simple work. One of my many issues is that I put my ego first. What if I suck? Who am I to think I can do this? Other people are more talented. And then all of that negative thinking freezes me up solid. Writercicle. Not very chocolatey.

No, sane writers put the work first. Even those getting paid. The work comes before food, or the food never comes.

Sane writers say no to drama. My critique group is full of published writers, and when I go there with my drama, they look at me curiously. They scratch their heads. They poke. They prod. How very interesting. Who is this angsty writer in our midst? They don’t quite get me because they don’t have a lot of drama. They know the game is hard. They know it because they’ve lived it. And drama doesn’t help that. Doesn’t make it easier. Drama just wastes a lot of energy.

Sane writers aren’t afraid of revision. The game is to write a rough draft, and then revise. Revision isn’t a big deal. Even big revisions. It doesn’t mean they suck, or should give up, or they aren’t brilliant. Harper Lee worked for years with agents and editors on To Kill a Mockingbird. So, revision? Not a big deal!

Sane writers are always working on something. They don’t write books, send off query letters, and then start watching lots of T.V. Nope. I talked with a successful children’s book writer and he said, “Always have something in the mail.” Always being querying and looking for publishers even as you work on your newest project. Sane writers do that.

Sane writers love writing. They might not always like it, but deep down, they love it, which probably makes them insane.

So this is my ideal, but I think every writer has to map out for themselves, what does a sane writer look like? What is my ideal self?

Next week, I have an exercise that helped me map this out a little more. More on Step Two next Tuesday, my lovelies!