• 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
  • Archives

Is It Hard To Make Arrangements with Yourself

Yesterday, a client sent me a note that nearly made me cry. She said that if I ever questioned why I do this work, I shouldn’t. She went on to say how much I helped her, especially in organizing her thoughts for a future book. Others have said it. One writer amused me once by saying with surprise, “You’re good at this.” But yesterday, those words really lifted me because I do, from time to time (and by that I mean always) struggle with my desire to write and my work.  I’ve always been more devoted to my work because I need to be connected to the earth the way a Thanksgiving Day balloon is tethered by so many cables. First as an editor, and now as an agent, my work with writers has saved me. Work has saved me. The rest of life I don’t know what to say much of except of course my daughter, my half scratched diaries, the shoeboxes filled with letters, clippings, ticket stubs and brightly colored candy wrappers. A game of Uno with drunken friends, sex in a Tanglewood parking lot, a long slow cruise down the Nile reading Faulkner.

What saves you. Or what kills you?

37 Responses

  1. This blogosphere has saved me. Whenever I feel alone, like nobody understands me and I don’t understand them, I turn here and, sure enough, there is at least one person who gets it. For me, trying to make myself heard without being looked at is crucial. I don’t like being looked at. It hurts my eyes.

  2. in no particular order: My kids, my friends, writing, library work, books, the Internet, family obligations, my marriage, caffeine and chocolate.

    This pretty much answers both questions.

  3. My life is like a book. What keeps me going is the belief that something great is around the corner, on the next page, something that will lift me out of this tangled shit. Having said that, I have it sooooo much better than most– but everyone likes to piss and moan.

  4. And Snow White said,, as she sat on Pinnochio’s face, “Tell me a lie.”

  5. I love your except list Betsy. What saves me is hope, that arrives eventually after all the tears. What kills me is the fear that it’s just a rat race after all. Which is a horrible ride instead of Its a Small World.

  6. Writing saved me. I would be miserable without it. I wish I had realised this sooner.

  7. I read this morning that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. That both saves me and kills me.

  8. What kills me? Betrayal. Worse than a hudred little cuts, the cruelest strategy to elict the most damage, it is an acid that scars one’s soul.

  9. What saves me? Inspiration.
    What kills me? Lack of it.

  10. What saved me today: 7th grade English. Chapter 40 of Great Expectations, and with minimal prodding, FIVE students made the leap from Miss Havisham/Estella and Provis/Pip to Frankenstein, and one even found his way to Promethius.

    I can be sustained on a day like today for weeks.

    Well, that and a book I had a teensy little hand in is on the NYT bestseller list for the first time this week. #13, e-books. Following Atticus is not my book, but the author asked me to write the author interview section and a little essay about my experience with his story, so I’m over the moon today. Between the two, I’m in a non-drug induced high.

    • Very nice! I taught Great Expectations for two years with freshmen and gave up my third year! Of course, I was a brand new teacher at the time, so it was overwhelming!

      And congrats on the bestseller piece. The Atticus part wouldn’t be referring to To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus, would it?

  11. I am saved by wind, water, and quiet places, by the sound of water and hull meeting, then parting. I am saved by a phrase that feels right, and by friends, and acts of kindness and courage.

    Any of those things can kill me, and nearly have. That’s fair enough.

    The beasts, though, the ones that suck the soul’s marrow are the meanness, the destructive and petty and hateful that are often not far away.

    • Yes, that sound of water and hull. Magical. Midnight sails up the lake. Stars and more stars. Dropping anchor in coves so full of lightning bugs, the mind can’t comprehend. The morning wind. But also the stinging spray, whitecaps and racing the thunder back home. Yet another thing I long for, Frank.

  12. “… a long slow cruise down the Nile reading Faulkner.” That sounds delicious.

    What saves me? Everything. The unexpected deliverance of something. A tangle of ferns spilling over the sidewalk, the sun throwing silver beams through the tiny, twinkling fronds. The soft layer of flab that has started accumulating over my dog’s rib cage; the sweet sway of his tail when he greets me. The hiss of steam rising from the espresso maker in the morning; the first sip over the thick, rounded porcelain. The click of logic falling into place. The cool, damp smell of dirt. A blue square of light on a black courtyard in the first hours of the day.

  13. I am saved by my writing, my friends, my man, the dog, and books, not necessarily in that order. Any one of those things can kill me just as easily (except maybe the dog).

  14. The save/kill thing is such a two-sided coin. In no particular order: coffee, a fantastic sentence, family, students, booze. Friends, though, true friends, they are only on the “save” list.

  15. I loved yesterday’s conversation here. And now this one. What saves me? The necklace of Tappan Zee Bridge lights reflected on the Hudson. What kills me? Mostly myself an the stupid shit I have tried. And certainly, love saves me. Giving and receiving. Also in the kills column the idea and ideal that anything can be perfect on the first try.

  16. writing saves me. everything else kills me. it’s another day at the races.

  17. At the risk of sounding crazy, Jesus Christ. Seriously, my faith in God is what saves me here and now.

    As for what makes my world go round type of saving…teaching, writing, family and friends. These are also the things that make me suffer…unintentionally maybe, but they do make life hard at times as much as they make life worth it. And I think that’s normal…they say we hurt the people/things we love most.

    • You don’t sound crazy at all because you know you’re never alone. I learned that forty years ago. I don’t go to church, don’t need to, don’t have to, don’t want to because I am surrounded by it.

  18. Writing, yes. I can’t say it always helps me make sense of what I see, hear or experience, but putting the words on paper, thoughts into print, does remove me from reality and sometimes to a clearer vision. My daughter’s smile never fails to brighten my heart. Friends. Kicking back and playing guitar through a killer sound system my friend DK bought with his winnings from the reservation casino. My wife. Arguments and all, we’re real with each other and the love is still there.

    What kills me is hate.

  19. Staying as far out of touch with my feelings as possible saves me from cliche.

  20. Silence. People always let you down, things never go as planned, shit happens, but you can always count on a quiet room and time to breathe.

  21. What saves me? My house at 4am – dead quiet except the soft snores of my dog who’s curled up against my leg, my computer on my lap, the current WIP on screen and a mug of fresh coffee within reach.

    What kills me? The certain fact that 4am goes by in a flash and I must wait a full 24 hours to get back to it.

  22. Adrienne Rich, “Power” about Marie Curie”:

    She died a famous woman denying
    her wounds
    denying
    her wounds came from the same source as her power.

  23. What saved me?
    My first by-line twenty-five years ago.
    What kills me?
    No title page…yet.
    What disappoints and breaks my heart?
    Time, both enemy and friend, if not now when?

  24. Travelling, baking and reading save me. Work occasionally saves me. I’m a translator and more often than not, our work goes unappreciated. That really kills me.
    Writing is also a double edged sword.

  25. I just finished Nora Ephron’s I REMEMBER NOTHING. I can’t explain it exactly but her words, I do believe, have soothed me. I wish she were still alive. I would have written a fan letter, for sure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,682 other followers

%d bloggers like this: