Me when I write.

How to be a Novelist in 54 Easy Steps

1. Look in the mirror.

2. Say, out loud, “I’m sure I can do this.”

3. Think about becoming an astronaut, which you can totally still do, even at middle age, if you try really hard.

4. Think, “Nah, it’s gotta be novels.”

5. Create a new document.

6. Hit ENTER until you are approximately halfway down the page.

7. Type CHAPTER 1.

8. Divide 80,000 words by the number of days left in the year.

9. Write on a Post-It, which you affix to the bathroom mirror, I will finish this book by New Year’s Eve 2012!

10. Get a day job.

11. Get another day job.

12. Say to yourself, “I should have another day job, which would be making my actual day jobs pay me within 90 days of completing my work, which they have already used in a social media marketing campaign.”

13. Get another day job.

14. Move to a city with a lower cost of living and where many famous novels have been written.

15. Walk the cobblestone streets with joy in your heart.

16. Wonder how you will get health insurance, since none of your three day jobs provide it.

17. Apply for full-time jobs offering health insurance.

18. Check your email, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day for replies to those applications.

19. Pay $800 a month for health insurance with a $7,000 annual deductible that still only covers half of the medication you take, and not the one that costs $7,300 a dose.

20. Apply to high-quality writing conferences.

21. Attend a high-quality writing conference.

22. Meet successful New York City literary agents.

23. Meet a successful New York City literary agent’s girlfriend.

24. Tell one of them that at one point, you once watched porn on the Internet.

25. Later that night, in their hotel room, when they talk in front of you about having sex with each other, and maybe another attendee of the high-quality writing conference, say aloud the words, “What am I doing here? Why aren’t I at home, in bed?”

26. Run away, to the friend waiting for you at the bar, and say, “I don’t know what I’m doing here. I could have been an astronaut.”

27. Go to sleep with a pillow positioned over your head, but not, and this is key, not over your face.

28. Go home, to the apartment that sucks up the entirety of one of the paychecks from one of the day jobs.

29. Sit in front of the window, which overlook one of the cobblestoned streets, and think, “This is bad but at least I love my windows.”

30. Sit at the desk with the globe on it.

31. Spin it.

32. Say out loud: “I could just move to Mongolia.”

33. Remember that one time you went to Mongolia, when you were young and true and free, and how all the apartments were terrible.

34. Sign up for a writing workshop.

35. Attend a writing workshop.

36. Say things like, “I have really believed in this book for the past three years.”

37. Say things like, “By that I mean that I really believe in this book because if I didn’t I would have wasted literally the last three years of my life.”

38. Say things like, “Do you think it’s weird that chapter 5 is told almost entirely in summary rather than in scene?”

39. Get a full-time job, which offers health insurance but not health insurance that covers the drug that costs $7,300 per dose, although H.R. promised it would, and no one cares that you have that promise in writing.

40. Call your health insurance company.

41. Enter into circular conversations that conclude with you saying “This is disgusting. I don’t think you’re disgusting. But this is disgusting.”

42. Daydream about going to grad school and having university health insurance.

43. Write little bits, here and there.

44. Realize that no matter how well you write, how much you write, how perfectly you construct a sentence, how skillfully you construct your plot, how triumphantly your characters’ true natures will reveal themselves to your readers, Kendall Jenner will sell more books than you ever will.

45. Swear you will write 500 words a day so you can finish your book by Christmas.

46. Swear you will write 750 words a day so you can finish your book by Christmas.

47. Swear you will write 1000 words a day so you can finish your book by Christmas.

48. Observe Christmas.

49. Swear you will write 500 words a day so you can finish your book by Valentine’s Day.

50. One year later, have your heart broken by someone with exactly the right hair color — like sunlight, the actual color of sunlight; if someone had asked you to describe the color of sunlight you would have said, “Oh, like my boyfriend’s hair?” — and exactly the right hair texture, it always amazed you, how his hair how it would tumble into curls like that when he grew it out, which you would beg him to do, especially toward the end of summer, when the sun had bleached it to white-gold, and you would lay, at the beach, his head on your stomach, his hair in your hands, and think, I love his hair so much and so much less than everything else I love about him.

51. Cry.

52. Decide which aspects of your relationship, if carefully integrated into your existing manuscript, might give the earlier chapters some emotional heft and the final chapters a real sense of loss.

53. Cry more.

54. Write until you stop crying.

The end.