Sunday, March 25, 2012


(*AWP is the annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs)

1.Denial — "I feel fine here.” “I am an equal among equals."

Denial is usually only a temporary defense. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of other writers having drinks together, other writers with better publishing deals, and other writers who always get much more attention from NPR.

2.Anger — "Why not me? I’m way better than she is!” “My last book should have had that front page review they gave his mediocre collection!” “Why didn’t they invite me to be on that panel?” "Why didn't anyone invite me to that party?" “Why didn’t they give me that award?” “Why didn’t they choose my piece for that anthology?” “It’s all who you know and logrolling!" “They only nominate gay men!” “They only nominate women of color!”

Once in the second stage, self-pity and rage can cause the writer to contemplate posting counterfeit positive reviews of his own books or toy with creating a sock puppet Twitter account to stalk and snipe at all his writer frenemies.

3.Bargaining — "I'll do anything for a PEN award." "I will spend my entire next advance for a great publicist if I can find a genius who can make it all happen..."

The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay the death of the next book. Usually, the negotiation for extended shelf life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand my books will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time..."

4.Depression — "I'm so marginalized, why bother to do readings or speak on panels anyway?” “I will never go to another conference.”

During the fourth stage, the writer begins to understand all too well the realities of writing, publishing, the academic rat race, and the interlocking sociopolitical structures of the tiny kingdoms that make up the literary world. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up a writer who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.

5.Acceptance of the Need for Perpetual Denial — "It's going to be okay." “People will always buy books and even though publishing is changing, I know success lies ahead.” “My next book will be my breakout book, I can feel it!” “I have a perfect idea for a panel for next year’s AWP.”

In this last stage, the writer begins to drink more heavily and/or make more frequent appointments with the therapist.


  1. Self delusion is critical at all stages of the journey, especially for a newly published writer.

    No self doubt is allowed in today's go-get-'em world. Only the fakest smilers need apply.

    Staring into the mirror for extended periods, while perfecting a look of disdain, is the best remedy for family members who sneer too easy.

    They are, of course, simply jealous of our fairground ride lifestyle. Believe me. I have seen the truth in my heart.