1. Get a creative writing degree (or an appropriate substitution, ideally anything that has you playing make believe, talking to the voices in your head, and inventing nonsensical stories).
2. Finish school. Wade into the ocean of uncertainty. Know that it will drown you, and hope that you can learn how to breathe underwater.
3. Nothing is certain. Cry about it.
4. Convince your friends and family you know exactly what you’re doing. (Alternately, pretend you’re still listening to their advice.)
5. Move back home.
6. Doubt yourself. Doubt yourself. Doubt yourself until it gives you nightmares (someone wrapping your head in plastic until you wake up sweaty, choking, and temporarily paralyzed). Learn about “sleep paralysis,” which makes more sense than temporary demonic possession. Acknowledge your overactive imagination.
7. Learn to read and write every day. Read about writers’ lives, quirks, and reading recommendations, and apply to funded writing programs when the timing feels right.
8. Get rejections nearly across the board.
9. Doubt yourself until it makes you literally vomit.
10. Apply to programs again the next year.
11. Acquire more rejections. For best results, let them trickle in one drop at a time like water torture.
12. Wallow: Binge on Netflix. Question the meaning of your existence. Attend a concert loud enough to shut off your brain.
13. Luck into a part time online job, take all of your savings, and leave home.
14. Set out to travel for one year. While away:
a) Go visit the people you love.
b) Fall in love.
c) Take on adventures for which you’re totally unprepared. Sprain an ankle.
d) Come up with story ideas.
e) Talk to strangers.
f) Come up with more story ideas.
g) Fall in love again, but differently.
h) Take a free online writing class and feel nostalgic about school.
i) Re-sprain your ankle.
j) Give yourself whiplash with all the ways you can fall in love: people, places, experiences, landscapes, professions, lifestyles. Fall in love with all of it, with living.
k) Go broke.
l) Cut your year short by a couple of months. (The point, after all, was to go where you wanted when you wanted, and now you want to go sit still in a place you love, focus on your writing, and not be homeless.)
15. Make yourself a promise: faced with one option or the other, you’ll leave what is comfortable. You’ll choose what you’re afraid to do, when it’s what you want most.
16. Smile. Nothing is certain.