This is not going to be a love letter to myself, to my work, or to my patient almost-husband. As an unpublished author with a tasty thriller out on query to a dozen literary agents, it is my primary job to get back to work. Another manuscript is in the hopper, and a series of nasty little short stories keep me distracted while I wait.

We all know this process moves slowly, and we all (should) know that these agents can’t tap dance any faster than they already are.

So, I do the healthy thing: plug away at another book like I’m Angela Lansbury in her opening credits. Occasionally, I break up the action with a cathartic, panicked cry on my fiancé’s shoulder. Then it’s back to typing, Dame Ange!

Except…that doesn’t exactly fill up each minute of my waking day, does it? In this race against self-doubt, I must be vigilant defending my nerve in the in-between times; the Netflix times; the teeth-brushing times; the orange-peeling times; that’s when a writer is most vulnerable to attack. I haven’t cracked yet, and here’s how–


Step One: Only Listening to Shirley Bassey

I listen to “Big Spender”; I listen to “Diamonds are Forever”; I listen to “Kiss Me, Honey, Honey, Kiss Me”; and NOTHING ELSE. I feel dramatic, undaunted, and lavish. In this vulnerable state, I cannot allow some Bon Iver weepy to shuffle into my player and whittle away that illusion. Also, “Moonraker” is lush, engorged nonsense, and it makes me feel better about my storytelling abilities.


Step Two: Gym Every Day but Just a Little Bit

For God’s sake, just twenty elliptical minutes, but I’m not gonna drive myself into the ground. I only need my heart rate up enough to justify the day’s sandwiches.


Step Three: Faking Giving Up

A big one! If you fake that you’re going to throw in the towel, then it’s out of your system. Most recently, I took up gardening outside my apartment window, potting marigolds and crab grass and the like. “I’m a gardener now,” I speak to imaginary fans, desperate to know where I’d vanished to. “I don’t do that anymore.” As they protest for me to return to my passion, I turn on them. “Leave me be!” Abandonment spreads across their faces; I soften my voice but maintain my resolve. “Leave me to my flowers, will you?” They go away, whispering comfort to each other, and I dig my hands once more into cedar mulch. “That was another time…”


Step Four: Lockin’ Up the Booze!

Highly recommend; four stars. Drinking is for celebrating. When the good news comes, on that day, bourbon will flow again.


Step Five: Putting On Clothes for a Few Hours

Just put ’em on! I know we don’t NEED to, but it’s fun to pretend. Try it; just for a couple hours. And not just any clothes. Business clothes. Here’s my regiment: pants (fancy-kind), belt, socks (black), shoes (dressy; I hear it should be the same color as belt; must check on that), shirt (tucked in), and tie (I got a hearty shot of confidence remembering that I know I to properly tie a Windsor, so there’s that!)


Step Six: Making Dumb Lists and Then Doing the Dumb List Things

Creative brains need the balance of order. I list everything (everything; doesn’t matter how small) on a daily index card the night before bed, and when I wake up, I cross off the first action item: “GET OUT OF BED.”

Once I’ve accomplished that, I start racking up the triumphs. With each swipe of the Sharpie, these tiny victories propel me forward through an otherwise negativity-besieged day.

It pays to remember, writers, that this is a fun and silly job. There is waiting (Christ, the waiting!), and there is doubt (Oh, Meryl Streep in “Doubt” never had such doubts), but this is your life. And, now, Shirley Bassey:

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Written by Adam Sass

Adam Sass

ADAM SASS is a journalist and copy editor for Mediaplanet, which prints in USA Today. His short story appeared in the anthology STARLING SCI-FI: NEW TALES OF THE BEYOND and was nominated for Best Science Fiction Story by Writer’s Digest. He lives in New York City with his husband and two dachshunds.

Keep up with Adam’s pop culture blogging at and on his (over)active Twitter: @TheAdamSass.