• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
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Hey Hey Mamma Said THe Way You Move

I loved the writing. The writing is fantastic. She’s such a wonderful writer. What exactly do you mean when you say that? It’s like saying a person is a good lover. Yes? And?  What moves are we taking about? What makes you good?  Or, she’s an amazing cook. Pies? Roasts? THat carrot cake? Donna is great friend! Does this mean she’s a great listener or has an unending supply of Percocet? Saying the writing is great is like saying sex is great or food is great or Donna is great. For me, if I have to say one thing (and I don’t because it’s my fucking blog), it is the feeling that I am in the hands of someone who is in control, who knows what they are doing.

Do you know what you’re doing? Yes, you.

46 Responses

  1. Jeeze, I hate goig first, but…yeah, right now, yeah, I do. I was reminded once again of a man’s genius by his death, and it touched me. I’m sharing with my readers how Dave Brubeck’s music touched me, and how that relates to what the readers and I have in common.

  2. No, I don’t. And what really writes my writing? Where does the favorite phrase turn come from? What deeper mystery discerns which darlings to execute, etc, That does know, in the biblical sense.

  3. I used to. Now I’m hiding. I’m in a bush. Everyone sees the bush, but they don’t see me.

  4. Do I know what I’m doing? Hell yes.
    I make a fool of myself half the time and the other half, like when someone recognizes me and compliments my column, I float, pink faced and proud. Little do they know that when I write, when I’m really in the zone, it is as if someone else tells my fingers what keys to hit. What’s that about anyway?

  5. Do I know what I’m doing? I make the best chicken and dumplings in town. I did a practice round this weekend, and even though the dough felt tougher than usual, they were perfection. Play hide-n-seek with my lab pup. She runs up the stairs and waits for me to “hide.” This goes on for an hour, every single evening. We’re good.

    And that’s all I’ve got. I write everyday, but who fucking knows. I can roll out good dough. I can hide from a dog. What else else is there?

  6. Totally.

  7. as long as i don’t think about it, i do

    • Totally. Like when you’re walking up stairs just fine and then think about the actual process of it and trip? I hate it when I do that.

      • Or get up the stairs and marvel how well you did it without tripping.

        There’s at least two metaphors in control there.

      • Or make it up the stairs and then turn around to marvel at how well you did without tripping, and get vertigo and nearly fall all the way down again, thereby deciding that maybe you should never leave that platform overlooking the world. True story.

  8. If the catagory under scrutiny does not include romance, conjugating verbs in Russian or electronic devices, there’s a very good chance I’m competent.

  9. I definitely know what I am doing.

  10. It takes many drafts to become an expert…

  11. No.

    (It’s three-thirty a.m. and I can’t sleep. I asked for dreams to guide me before I fell asleep. I got the dreams. I don’t got the guidance.)

  12. No, I don’t. Not as far as writing goes. I haven’t put in the kind of hours to even justify knowing. But I’m still going to hang out here. I really dig the company.

  13. I used to think I know what I am doing. But for this moment I don’t. Useless and anxious thoughts are invading my mind–other things in life than writing. I have to leave the words I am putting on my page there for a while. Hope it would be just a little while.

  14. At the beginning of a story, I have no idea what I’m doing. Each fragment is like a daub of paint and it takes a little while until I can see a picture. When that happens, then I can say I have an idea of the whole and when I put it together, that’s when I know what I’m doing. But it comes later.

    • Interesting, Ana. I start with an idea, but it may be pretty general. It’s a bit like standing at the bottom of a grassy slope, with trees on either end, and little but grass between. Then I picture it on a busy holiday, with people and pets and blue skies. But I can make it cold and barren, with trash and a few leaves blowing in a mean wind. I can go up the hill and look back down, or fly over it, or stand in the woods and look out.

      It’s not much different from those daubs you add, but I have some idea when I start, though sometimes I get a better one.

      Your site, by the way, is very cool. I’m a fan.

      • Thanks Frank.
        I should clarify. I do have a tiny idea (that mutates in an unexpected direction), but it’s not an overarching idea or a plot.

  15. My definitions of what I’m doing and what I thought I was doing are at odds right now.

    I’m trying to reconcile them, but there’s a pushmepullyou thing going on . . . and maybe that’s not what I’m doing either?

  16. I know what I’m supposed to do, but sometimes I don’t have the big brass ones it takes for the execution.

  17. It’s when I lose control in my writing that I feel I know what I am doing.

    • Yeah, I agree. It’s that rare moment when the need in my hearts tells the editor in my head to go fuck herself.

      • Ok, heart. I forgot you guys don’t know I’m so full of love the singular heart cannot possibly describe mine.

  18. Not really. But for some reason it translates well in print.
    A great writer is a great storyteller. It’s a literary letdown when you see behind the curtain, but when you can’t wait to get back to a story and where the author will take you next, it’s clear what great writers share with great lovers is they can deliver. Ahhh….

  19. I know what I’m doing enough to know that I need to know more about what I’m doing.

  20. Damn straight I know what I’m doing. Unfortunately what I’m doing isn’t always straight. Quite often it’s a bit crooked, or twisted, or takes a detour. But damn, when I hit those straightaways…

  21. Only a god can intend and be simultaneously. So I have to say My knowledge is limited. And there is some beauty in that.

  22. Do I know what I’m doing? Yeah, I’m on the bike, going downhill, picking up speed, and taking my feet off the pedals.

  23. I have an almost anthropological obsession with turning people inside out, discovering what it is that makes them tick, which has honed my powers of observation which has created this big shitpile of data in my head that needs to find a way out so it doesn’t explode, but an artful exit (I spew from my mouth) and after years, a million hours of practice, I’ve gotten better with the pen, more artful with the exit, better at making shit-pies that cohese, that I dare say might, on my best days, convey meaning and entertain but I still have to throw way too many of the shit pies out to get to the ones that stick

  24. Now I am wondering.

  25. I’m getting there. Now if I could live to be 150, I might arrive. Not a good idea to start writing during your final lap.

  26. Not always and I don’t mind it that way any more. For me “knowing what I’m doing” is closely related to “being in control.” When I get everything to where I feel it’s under control, that’s when something messes it up and I lose control!

  27. I think I do until I go back and read. so I change it, and think I know yet again…then I let it percolate, go back and read, and shit, I didn’t know what I was doing so, I do “fix” it. and that’s how it goes. When I saw my name (totally random I know) but it gave me a moment of heart lock – haha. (and I haven’t been out here in TWO DAYS) because we adopted a 3 year old Yorkie who is dealing with some security issues -as all dogs do in a new home..and I’ve hardly had any sleep. And this is two days out and no one will probably read it anyway…oh well.

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