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The Four Phases of a Writer’s Life

May 31, 2010

I don’t consider myself much of a writer, since I have only been at this blogging thing for a couple of years. But that doesn’t keep me from daydreaming about it sometimes during my commute home from work, when I imagine myself as a celebrated author and much sought-after thought-leader. I picture the many calls and emails I would get from agents and publishers, all clawing to get a piece of me because my work is in such great demand.

“These people are so annoying!” I would complain to my wife. “Why can’t they just leave me alone to work on my craft in peace?”

My brash agent, Marty, would try to manage it all, calling me frequently with updates. “Screw Thomas Nelson!” he would bark over the cell phone, dismissing their offer for a six-figure advance. “We’ve got Crown salivating for a 3-book deal and Hyperion is chasing us like a stray dog in heat!” I attempt to calm Marty down, admonishing him for his colorful use of foul language. But I’ll admit, he sure knows how to get it done!

Then I would run through a roster of friends and acquaintances, as well as people who I don’t even know, imagining their reactions upon hearing about my runaway publishing success. “I knew Brad was multi-talented, ” some will say in utter amazement, “but, golly – now you’re telling me he’s on top of the New York Times bestseller list?” Others would not say anything at all, but I have etched in my mind a certain look on their faces that for some reason provides me with a great sense of satisfaction.

Even though I am not very experienced, my recent exposure to the inner workings of many writers through blogging has allowed me to pick up on a few things about the life of a writer. In fact, I have observed that writers go through four distinct phases. These are then repeated in a never-ending cycle. Surely, the harmony of this spirit-filled journey must represent the beautiful integration in the soul of a writer’s life.

 Phase 1: Self-Aggrandizement.

In this high-flying phase, the writer brims with confidence, thanks to an inflated sense of talent and perceived importance to the literary world. However insane it might be, this madly unrealistic self-perception keeps the creative juices flowing. One can often detect hints of a writer in this phase while listening in on his private conversations:  “Honey, I honestly believe that what I’ve written here will change the world.” Or, “I can’t possibly take  a blog sabbatical. My readers are counting on me!”

Phase 2: Bitter envy.

Here is when the writer comes across news of his friend’s success, which spirals into an emotional frenzy as he immediately draws comparisons to his own less-successful situation. Perhaps a friend sends an innocent Tweet sharing some good news: “Thank the Lord, my draft manuscript was picked up at the writer’s conference last week. I am so amazed that this international publisher has put so much faith in a first-time author such as me!” Or he sees yet another story in the New York Times about some blogger he has never heard of with some lame idea who is now discussing licensing deals, movie and television production rights.  The writer is now fuming with jealousy and envy regarding the obvious injustice. “Why is everyone else getting a shot but me? I am far more talented than that idiot! When will these fools start to take notice of my work?”

Phase 3: Utter dejection.

The writer then goes through a very dark stage marked by feelings of worthlessness and despondency upon the realization that his talent is mediocre at best, and that the public really doesn’t care all that much about his work. You may not hear from the writer during this phase, as he prefers to stay quietly sequestered at home with the curtains drawn, watching reruns or slipping back into former addictions.

Phase 4: Resignation and Acceptance.

“Oh, I just surrendered it all to the Lord,” you will hear the writer say with a sigh as he takes a sip of herbal tea. Here you will notice a spiritual resurgence as the writer finally lets go of those far-fetched fantasies and detaches his personal sense of self-worth from the amount of public attention he receives.

It’s all in God’s hands now, so why not go back and write some more? You do love the writing so much, after all.

Upon reviewing a couple of drafts the writer begins to say, “Hey, you know what? This material  is not really all that bad!” Surely there must be someone out there who will agree. And come to think of it, a little acknowledgement of the work would be nice once in a while.  

And the cycle continues…

Thanks to nAncY for the cool picture!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrew Turner permalink
    May 31, 2010 3:47 pm

    Hilarious. Especially the “fowl” language…which, taken with the picture above, would be about the worst pun ever devised.

  2. May 31, 2010 3:52 pm

    ok, that was just a plain old typo. Good catch. (it is a holiday here after all, and i’ve been sitting by the pool, relaxing, thinking these crazy thoughts…)

  3. May 31, 2010 3:58 pm

    Too true and funny!

  4. May 31, 2010 4:18 pm

    Ok Mr. The Camel – – Which stage are you at (or willing to admit you are at)? Me? I’ve been in all four spots several times over (and over and over).

    Wonderful, thoughtful post…. 🙂

  5. May 31, 2010 4:30 pm

    I am firmly planted in Phase 4, which is why I can even write this. But i already feel the pull back into Phase 1 (I really need to start working on that book proposal!)

  6. May 31, 2010 6:51 pm

    LOL – beautiful.

  7. May 31, 2010 6:55 pm

    LOL – like most good humor it pokes at us where we’re most vulnerable. It explains why I’ve started a dozen boks in my life and never stood any hope of finishing, let alone publishing any of them. Oh and also the fact that I’m not that great a writer, despite how well I can relate to the daydreams! Not to mention the not insignificant difference between writing a page for a blog post that nobody has to approve and writing 300 pages for vindictive editors and unappreciative publishers. Bradley you on the other hand can most certainly write … thanks for sharing it!

  8. May 31, 2010 8:41 pm

    You do have a way of making writing sound like fun!

  9. June 1, 2010 8:57 am


    I counsel other writers that they just need to write. Period. Forget getting published. Forget huge audiences. Forget numbers. If you are called to write and you have it in you, just do it and all that other stuff will follow if its meant to be.

    Call it resignation, but it’s the only way to keep sane!

    • June 2, 2010 5:17 am

      Yes, writing for the sake of writing has got to be the end goal if it’s something one really loves to do. That’s good advice.

  10. June 1, 2010 3:04 pm

    i like your “marty” character.

    this was a fun read.
    it could even be a daily comic strip.

  11. June 2, 2010 1:03 pm

    Too funny.

    Which Phase are you in now? ; – )

  12. June 3, 2010 9:54 am

    Oh, wow. This photographer does that too. WOW, that’s uncomfortable to read. I think the cycle has to stop somewhere, though, perhaps deep in the love of God, deep in the security of knowing He knows us, somewhere on the journey between here and there as we walk in the Spirit and we become less and He becomes more in us.

  13. June 6, 2010 8:05 pm

    Brad, of all your posts you’ve written recently, this has been the most fun—and the most painful. Did you really have to put all this in harsh black and white? (I must be in stage 3 at the moment.)

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