STEP FIVE: YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL

Some people will tell you that in order to be a Great American Novelist you have to become an alcoholic, have a tormented relationship with a hooker, live in a rundown part of town above a used vacuum cleaner store, and work at a fish market amongst greedy foreigners. That is simply not true. All you have to do is write about a small town coming of age.

When I set out to write my Great American Novel, I decided I would write about a small American town coming of age when its leading scientist invents a gun that turns men into women, and vice versa. A unique spin on the classic formula, and one certain to win me some kind of literary award for encouraging people to think about things they would not normally think about.

Writing the Great American Novel is one of the most challenging things you can do as a human being, and it will no doubt push you to your limits. In writing my story, I was so vexed by my own failure to come up with words that I ended up taking to the drink. Before long I had to move to a smaller apartment to afford rent, above a used vacuum cleaner store. To pay the rent I took a job working for an angry Chinese fishmonger down at the pier, who taught me to hate humanity. That's where I met Gretchen, a prostitute whom I fell in love with even though she was a junky and hated me even more than I hated myself.

Eventually the Great American Novel mutated and took on autobiographical qualities. It became the release for me, the place where I transformed all my malaise and angst into words. The process sucked the life out of me. I began to bleed ink, and my words began to bleed blood and sweat. Routinely, I would throw my typewriter out the window in some epic fit of drunken rage, usually hitting a Satanist down below. They apparently started hanging out at this new used vacuum cleaner store after mine mysteriously burned down after being soaked with gasoline and lit on fire. I didn't mind, because they were very encouraging and supportive, offering a thumbs up whenever I managed to hit one of them with my impromptu projectiles.

But I kept on writing, pouring more and more of my soul into the story. As I descended into skid row, so too did the imaginary small town of my story. It began to come of age in violent fashion as the layers of homely charm peeled off, revealing a grotesque and hypocritical veneer of grimy lies and falsehoods. Finally, I was showing the world for what it truly was: A seething swamp of deceit that we were all drowning in.

After one long month I completed my first 1,000 words, or the first eight chapters of the story. I decided that was proof enough of my ability to write the Great American Novel, so I set the manuscript on fire to signify that my life alone was an important chapter in the American experience. I quit my job at the fish market, moved out of that apartment, dropped down from two beers a week to just one, and moved to a nicer neighborhood. Also I think Gretchen wanted to settle down, so it was time to move on while simultaneously not leaving behind any contact information whatsoever.

At this stage in my life, there was but one obstacle left to tackle in order to become a truly successful man.

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