I had that feeling again, of being both intimidated and stifled by the plethora of people out there, pitching tents on the Internet. A crowded, clamoring forum, everybody listing accomplishments, outlining projects, trying to seem more successful than they actually are. The most popular bloggers have a similar bio: some failure led to a great success, the writer (consultant, motivational speaker, life coach) reinvented, baptized by fires of defeat. A more likely truth: we are not always improved. There are short straws and long straws and we will draw some of each, and some people will draw more of one than the other, not always because they deserve it. There’s failure—I tried to be a professional athlete and didn’t have enough talent; I wanted to write but lacked drive. And there’s bad luck— I wanted a happy marriage but never met anybody; I wanted a long life but got sick. It’s hard to talk about defeat, especially in the can-do cyber-universe. Every narrative is subtly framed as a step in the direction of eventual triumph. A consoling template until we meet a road block that won’t be moved, or until the road dwindles to a path, and then a trail, and then disappears. How do we talk about loss? How do we talk about aging? How can we talk frankly and truthfully about life without talking about death?

I keep looking for a map, some reassuring set of directions that will lead to being a writer. I can’t stand not knowing what comes next. So I read books, jam packed with advice, soup to nuts, so much advice I get muddled and cranky. One of the best pieces of advice: when the books start to sound redundant, stop reading. They all say the same thing: write.

What Rules Of Writing scare me today?

You can’t write without joy.

You will never succeed if you don’t believe you’ll succeed.

If you want the universe to help you, you have to tell the universe you have already gotten the help you need.

You will never write well if writing feels like a chore.

You can’t start writing until you know what you want to say.

You need to outline.

Outlining will kill the book.

Which makes me wonder why so few people say this:

You have a story. Write, and you will find it.