Shackled to God – The Writer’s Commitment to the Universe

Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to a power greater than ourselves

Okay, to recap. The third step is about living as our best selves, giving up on the fantasies of writing, and accepting the reality. Living the dream.

So part of the joy of my online presence is that I get to interview writers, and I started asking people if they could take a pill to remove the desire to write, would they take the pill?

Most said no. Most love writing and wouldn’t give it up.

Me? I’d take the pill because my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have a full-time job I try to cram into the cracks of my other full-time job and the rest of my life. William Faulkner was a mailman before he hit it big and he used to throw away mail so he could write more. Henry Miller was more realistic. He just hung out in Paris and wrote, poor as the lice in his mattress.

But I have to wonder; why was I given this desire to create? Other people don’t have it, but man, I have it in spades. Why?

The fact is, every writer has a unique voice and a unique perspective. Give two writers the same prompt, and you’ll always get wildly different results. Always. Because we are unique.

So if I have the desire to write, then I have a duty to the universe to write my stories. Why else would I want to write?

Yes, I watched way too much TV growing up. I was hurt. I was alone. I ran away into stories, and I began to tell myself stories when I got bored. So I was molded into a writer, but now that I am one, I can’t just quit. Because I have a duty.

I have friend who wrote a wonderful novel about heaven, hell, angels, the whole deal. In her book, she had a moving scene where it showed what happened when people died. As the people died, a dove would come and draw out the song of their life, and that song would join the infinite symphony of the universe.

My stories are my song. I am doomed to write them. Doomed, maybe blessed. Depends on the day. The Sikhs wear a steel bracelet as a symbol for their connection to God. It’s steel because the Sikhs believe they are shackled to God. No way out.

In the same way, as a writer, I am shackled to God.



I have to surrender to my writing, make time for it, make it happen. Because no one can write the stories I can write and that means I have a duty.

At times, it can be a divine form of slavery.

Surrender Is Heartbreak, Not Sunshine and Puppies – Step 1 Continued

Step 1 – Admitted we were powerless over our art and our creative lives had become unmanageable.

The bottom line is this: I wanted to write, I couldn’t write, so I had to decide between chopping off my hands or accepting help.  I had to let go of my old ideas that had not worked. When I got rejected by the agent back in 2006, I had been writing for fourteen years, in isolation, in secret. And I had failed. I had to embrace that and surrender.

The first step is all about surrendering and admitting we are broken. It’s not a happy step. Generally, with the people who I have worked with, you don’t leave this step whistling and holding a puppy. But it’s the brokenness that is the magic. The more broken, the better.

I was at rock bottom that day I left the session with the agent. And I re-visit that place every now and again, but it’s never been as bad. Because my writing habit is not a secret that I carry alone any more. I invite others into the madness.

As I’ve said in earlier blog posts, you can’t work the 12 steps alone, which is why the recovery community understands the need to have a sponsor. What I do with the guys I sponsor is to set up weekly appointments with them, just an hour a week, and yes, in our busy lives, an hour is like gold-tinted minutes, but in the end it’s worth it.

With your sponsor, you have to write down where you are powerless over your art, and how your creative life is unmanageable. A lot of these are going to be old ideas that you believe, and we’re going to inventory these old ideas in step 4.

These are some of the ideas I had that kept my writing life unmanageable:

  • I was so afraid of trying to get published that I couldn’t write anything at all. I just couldn’t. I was afraid to succeed. I was afraid to fail.
  • I didn’t think I would succeed, so why even try?
  • Crippling self-doubt. I didn’t think I had any talent.
  • Critical voices paralyzed me. I couldn’t write anything worth reading. Who was I kidding?
  • What I was doing was selfish, and so I needed to spend more time with my family and friends and being of true service to the world.
  • I should wait for inspiration. I didn’t have the big, huge, original idea and if that idea never came, I shouldn’t even bother.
  • The game is fixed and only those on the “inside” have a chance.
  • I was roasted by envy. Other people will get published and not me.
  • If I can’t be a runaway bestseller, if I can’t be the best, I’m not even going to try.

I give a talk called “From Whining to Writing: Courageously Creating and Overcoming the Odds,” and really, it is all about the first step. If I’m powerless over writing and my writing life is unmanageable, I’m stuck right there. But being stuck can be a marvelous thing.

It can bring change.

But for this blog, not yet. Next week, I play the time card. It’s like the race card, but more time-y, less race-y. It basically says, “I’m so busy I can’t write.”

Next week, we’ll see why that’s a lie.