Acute Artistic Authoring (AAA) is a serious, chronic disease. The fact that it is becoming increasingly common has been brought to my attention, and so, in an effort to assist those many, many afflicted persons all around the world, I have taken it upon myself to construct an informative handbook on AAA.

You may have AAA if the pleasure of reading a really good book is marred just a little by the fact that you didn't write it, or if your childhood books were purchased based on how many blank pages were at the end, and now they're filled with your own version of the tale in crayon. Other symptoms of AAA may include an inexplicable urge to write down the things you say for future reference, or an unheard of number of cryptic notes lying around your house that appear to be in your handwriting. If you typically write four-page school reports instead of the requested two, if you correct the notes your friends pass you in class and hand them back with grades, and/or if you have a tendency to correct your teachers' notations on their corrections to your homework, you either have AAA or are well on your way to becoming socially ostracized. But fear not, fellow afflicted persons, for AAA can be coped with.

The first step in rehabilitation is acknowledging your problem. You must realize that it is not normal to become upset by the uncanny certainty that a spy plot is going down when a waiter at the next table stoops to retrieve a fallen fork. You must become aware of the fact that rewriting essay prompts to make them more interesting is not a requirement for a decent grade, and that the ability to tell what decade a book was written in with little more than a glance at the cover is not a universal skill. Though it may be difficult to understand, you must try hard to come to terms with the knowledge that not everybody carries around a sharpie for the sole purpose of correcting the grammar and spelling of bathroom graffiti. I find it important to point out here that jail time is not an accepted punishment for the misuse of an apostrophe, and that dog-earring is by no means a mortal sin.

The cure for AAA is a rather unconventional one, but AAA itself is extremely unconventional. To eliminate the distressing urges and frequent feelings of displacement and entrapment so often associated with AAA, you must embrace them. If you are moved to write down the animated conversation taking place at the table behind you at the local McDonald's, do so, and ignore the disgusted glares and disgruntled patrons who suddenly cease their discussions and move across the room. If an infomercial on recycled newspapers suddenly sparks a vivid image in your mind's eye, go ahead and use whatever happens to be at hand to preserve the image, be it soda bottles, pet toys, keys, or measuring cups. If you upgrade your computer, but would rather not part with your keyboard because the 'S' key is always stuck and you rather like it that way, keep the keyboard and ignore the worried frowns from your friends and family. At this point, you should be coming to terms with your AAA. Once you begin to feel slightly more comfortable with your symptoms, it is time to progress to step three.

Go shopping. Remember—embrace the urges and follow your intuition. Buy five magic pens instead of one. Make a collage of bumper stickers and key chain logic. If you run out of space on your bookshelves, do not be afraid to use your bedroom floor, your closet, under your bed, or the drawers of your bureau to store your books. Go ahead and spend three hours selecting the 'perfect notebook.' After all, you are setting out on an incredible journey the likes of which you have never before imagined. Make yourself comfortable; surround yourself with familiar things you really like, or unfamiliar things you really like. Armed now with the shield of aloof confidence and the sword of pen and paper, I release you into the unsuspecting world of AAAism.

Now for the final step. One of the reasons AAA is so all consuming is the fact that it reproduces with such astounding alacrity as to boggle the mind. So, to decrease the enormous pressure pushing for release, you must express it. Write. A lot. Talk. A lot. Get excited. Weave tales of people who do all the things you have done or want to do or would never imagine doing in a billion years. Become passionately involved with your characters. Mediate heated arguments between various characters and don't worry if your parents drag you off to a psychiatrist. They always make the best soundboards for bouncing ideas off of. Stop random strangers and tell them about your plot ideas. Use your homework for the basis of plots and subplots. Walk through the grocery store and figure out which foods your characters like or dislike. Build an epic fantasy trilogy around a bumper sticker. Talk out loud about how your characters would react in a situation.

Fabulous. You have now become a slightly eccentric, but perfectly acceptable, member of society. Congratulations. However, I must warn you that this new writing thing you've begun is highly addictive. The side effects of this addiction will stretch their nasty fingers into every aspect of your life.

Your social life will suffer in ways you could never have envisioned: You will spend at least half of every party sitting on a couch and dying from lack of notebook and pen. You will notice that the lady walking her dog across the street looks exactly like one of your characters and will have to be forcibly restrained from racing over to ask her motivation for the actions of said character. You will begin telling your best friend about a story, but he or she will be inevitably lost in trying to understand how this ties in with the other twenty or so plots you have attempted to store in his or her head, since yours is out of room. You will develop an addiction to notebooks, and your friends and family members will be under strict orders to keep you away from the school supplies section of every store.

Your schoolwork will suffer horrendous and possibly irreparable wounds: You will scribble stories on every available scrap of paper in your school notebooks, much to the amusement of your teacher. You will have plot outlines/character notes/bits of poetry mixed in with things like chemistry formulas, because you didn't even want to waste time switching notebooks in class to write down ideas. You will attempt to patiently explain that Nanowrimo is a perfectly good reason for not doing your homework. You will start your daily art class wondering if the teacher would be upset if the apples you were supposed to be drawing morphed into the aliens from your latest story. Your GPA will drop half a point in November.

Your family life will suffer an enormous strain, but will somehow hold out: Your parents will begin carrying a dictionary to look up the words you use. Your mother will learn to confiscate your notebook and pen every time you go out to eat. You will eat Thanksgiving dinner in front of your computer. Your house will only be clean when you have writer's block. Even if you are a female, your parents will become more wary of handing you their credit card when you head to the bookstore than when you go clothing shopping. Everyone in your family will become unshakably convinced that you are going to make it as a writer, even though not one of them will dare to so much as contemplate glancing at a single word you've written. You will reject your surname and adopt a new one that will place your books right next to your favorite author's books in the library. Your keyboard will be plagued with blank keys, and visiting relatives will speculate for decades how on earth you type with aforementioned keyboard.

You self-esteem will be thrust aboard a never-ending roller coaster: You will realize that everything you've ever written is garbage and you will vow never to write another word, but you will still get up the next morning and carry on writing as if nothing had happened. You will randomly find a short story you wrote several years earlier while cleaning out your closet, and revise it so that it is much better, and you will feel as though you have found and restored a lost and priceless piece of art. You will be severely angry with yourself when you neglect writing down plot ideas and forget them the next day, then spend hours retracing your thoughts until you figure out what that plot was... and then you will change it almost completely so that it is ten times better than it originally was. You will go into withdrawal if you are not in constant contact with pen and paper.

Your favorite pastimes will no longer be half the fun they once were: You will feel an uncontrollable urge to point out the mistakes in the dialogue of your favorite TV shows, and surfing the web will consist of a great deal of nail-biting tension as you attempt to cope with the numerous grammatical errors.

But you will endure through all of this. To assist in your endeavor to take on the grammatically incorrect world, I offer the following advice:

Remember that words like "cherubic" and "moratoria" are not regular words for everyday use.

Get a laptop with an excessively long battery life.

If you hear a good quote on TV and write a whole story just so you can use it, don't tell everyone which quote it was.

Keep in mind that there are lots of people in the world who don't want to spend all their spare time writing things down.

Non-writers are people, too!