1. Don't open your computer. There are too many dangers there, like the internet for comparing and the ability to delete, to copy and paste.
2. Try to remember the first time you wrote a sentence. What was it? What did you write it with?
3. Take those tools you used to write that first sentence—a crayon, a dull pencil, the pen your mother used to make out checks—and start there.
4. Make a list of all the people in your life who have told you you suck. Old professors, a girl from your poetry workshop, your stepfather, someone who bashed your blog. They will be the first voices you hear when you write, so you may as well start with them.
5. Take a minute to think about their insecurities, their fears, the parts of themselves that they hate.
6. Allow yourself to see them as flawed, like you, as people who have voices in their heads dictating to them what is good and what is bad.
7. Remind yourself that what those people deem as good and bad is something that has been passed along to them. An unwieldy inheritance. A curio cabinet that is too big for the wall, a headboard that always ends up blocking the window. Pity them for not being able to say enough already, for not being able to let go, to sell that shit on eBay, to let it rot in the rain on the side of the street.
8. Remind yourself of how writing has changed through the years, especially in the last century.
9. Remind yourself of those modernists who broke through the soggy plywood of the nineteenth century as if they were made of fire, how they set the world ablaze with their lack of linearity, their sentences that refused to be good, their sentences that refused to be bad, their sentences that refused to be anything other than what they were.
10. Be like those sentences—rambling at times, and staccato short at others, and full of holes that should never be filled.
11. And then—only then—write one of those sentences. Let it be neither good nor bad but exactly what it is, a child that wants nothing of the world than to be loved.
12. When you picture someone else reading this sentence of yours—a writing partner, an old friend—and it makes your pen stop, move it further down the page and write this, over and over until you believe it: I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist. I trust myself as an artist.
13. Write only what you love. When you find yourself writing anything other than what you want to be writing—a scene that will bring the fragments of your essay together, an opening paragraph that better sets the scene—stop. Take a breath. Skip a line or a page and begin again—a sentence about the time your mother broke her tooth, a fragment about the time you were raped.
14. Write until the words run out.
15. Then write more. Upend yourself like a cup, tapping the bottom until even the condensed bits on the bottom and along the sides come out.
16. When you are done, when everything inside is bone dry, put what you just wrote away. Don't read it. Don't check it for mistakes. Don't look back at it for parts you could use in the story about the cult or the story about the girl who loses all her skin. Put it away and let it be what it is—a long string of words like you used to write when you were young and didn't know how to spell and didn't think to put spaces between them because no one would read them anyway and because they were yours—just yours—and you loved them for that.