• 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

Don’t You KNow THat You Can Count Me OUt

Hi Guys: It’s finally happening after four years: blogger’s block. I don’t want to write about Random buying Penguin, I don’t want to write about e-books, or having lunch with editors no matter how wonderful they are. I don’t want to write about rejection. We eat it for fuck’s sake. I don’t want to write about my screenplay and the nausea at the back of my throat. I don’t want to write about Amazon, or my mother, or therapy, or solitude, or holidays and  how John CHeever started drinking at nine in the morning. I don’t care about facebook, twitter, tumbler, instagram, and anyone else I’m not including. I don’t care if this little ship goes down so long as for some amount of time something happened that might have gone unnoticed but produced a small change in a person who, like me, was stuck.

86 Responses

  1. I started writing…I have no idea really I have written out my thoughts from an early age. And then I stopped. I folded in on myself. I made myself smaller to fit someone else’s mold of what I should be. I stopped listening to myself and so very rightly, the inner me got fed up of the abuse of neglect and refused to speak. Nothing, silence for years, for a lifetime of punishment. I had to coax me out of hiding. To ask my own opinion. To listen and learn. To remember I mattered. Everyone else may come or go, but I am still right here. Listening.

  2. it did. thank you for all you’ve done.

    • Inka dinka doo. It had to be Jimmy Durante who said that. I have no idea what it means, but it kinda fits. Sorta. Anyhow, take care!

  3. Just found your blog 10 days ago — and I have totally been enjoying the breath of fresh air. Keep rambling. It’s inspiring to find someone who writes so solidly in their own voice and rocks the page. Short and alive. Love it.

  4. I’ll care if the ship goes down. I’ll care a lot.

  5. Would be happy just to hear about the blogger block. All your posts are wonderful to me! Your blog has the loveliest mix of wit, candour and helpfulness. Hope to hear from you again sooner rather than later.

  6. Small change?

    Two years ago, I had half a book full of random chapters and one friend I could send stuff to. My wheels were spinning in the sand.

    Then I came over here because Janet Reid mentioned you—I think “Just Kids” had just come out. I ventured a comment or two.

    Now, I’ve got a fairly coherent novel and a half, plus a couple of other projects, and a whole circle of people who know what I’m trying to do and why, and who’re kind enough to tell me I’ll get there, share theories about where “there” really is, and suggest a couple of legitimate reasons why it I haven’t quite made it, yet–and who allow me to do the same for them.

    No more spinning, Betsy. I don’t know where I’m going to end up, yet, but I’ve finally got some traction.

    • Following your lead…

      Three years ago I had a mish-mash of badly written words scribbled out on a commute.
      Today I have a half-typed second draft.
      The book used to be the focus out of my job, my commute into the me that I couldn’t admit, the writer me, the oh-it’s-just-a-hobby-even-if-I think-about-it-every-waking-moment.
      A few years ago I found your blog and I read Food and Loathing and it was the first time I thought, I need to write her a letter. But I couldn’t do it fearful of sounding like a gushing moron instead of being able to just say, “Thank you for writing the words I didn’t have.”
      Now I have a crew of friends that I meet up with and more often write to about life and all of it’s mish-mash. The difference between the scribbled words and the typed words was the people I came to meet right here. The people including you, dear Betsy, although thankfully you don’t have to get my ranting e-mails

      So, you still haven’t gotten the letter. But thank you for leading me to this tribe and all of the wonderful, cynical, supportive, argumentative, lovely people that I would have never met in my real world. Sometimes “real” is as subjective a word as “fiction”.

  7. It did…..

    Sent from my iPad

  8. I wish you could have had my evening: I sat across a bistro table from two dear friends who think I am clever and talented and in-the-know with certain local Big Names. At the conclusion of the meal, the husband practically gave a speech thanking me for being their friend. Yet earlier today, I was mentally reviewing the list of my failures, feeling the cold breath of the wolf puffing through the cracks in the door and dreading to open the mailbox, inbox or latest text message (let alone write anything more than an on-line payment for another bill).

    Their sincerity was truly a gift to my dejected self. Tonight, I’m organizing the papers on my desk, writing a few notes and trying to act worthy of the image sketched by my friends.

  9. Here’s to this blog and the bracelet girls and Finishing The Fucker and countless meet ups and gatherings. Cheers!

    And by the by, Woodford Reserve in Versailles, KY has the best whiskey tastings and course ground pepper for grilling.

  10. thank you, betsy. and take it easy.

  11. I have a folder of bookmarks called “Writing”. A subfolder called “Read for Inspiration”. Maybe 40 links. A Janet Fitch blog post. A link to a Franzen interview. Out of the remaining three dozen or so, over thirty are links to posts of yours. I get stuck, you’re the go to. The specific advice always helps and is why these particular ones get bookmarked, or bm’d in Betsy-speak. But what always moves me is how free you are with words and thoughts and language and self. A gift.

    But stop if you’re ready to stop.

    I swept the marble chambers,
    But you sent me down below.
    You kept me from believing
    Until you let me know:

  12. Dude, you don’t owe any of us anything, ever. Do what you do, when you wanna do it. Period. Your ship’s not going down, you’re just floating with the tide. And you’ve been a lighthouse to all of us for years.

    For the people who are just tuning it, read the archives. Let them carry you until the tide flows in again.

    Wow, worst beach metaphor EVER, but you get my drift(wood).

  13. what shanna said.

  14. I don’t mind if you stop, because blogs are pretty stupid anyway, but after I read The Forest for the Trees I started writing better, more articulated stuff and I was published. It stayed next to my bed for a couple of years. Then I found the blog and I found the freedom to swear, some cool girl writer mates and an open channel for my bitchself blues. Grazie Betsy I’m on merlot over here.

  15. Come on, Betsy. You know the rules. You taught so many of them to us. Until you write The End the story isn’t over.

  16. Betsy, thank you for your books and this blog.

    Forest For The Trees could have been called A Book of Truths, and is a vault with an opened door. I go there often, and always leave with another gem, or discover another facet, or see something in a new light.

    This blog has that effect, but it’s more like the coffee shop where I must go, watching the regulars come in, listening to them, hearing of families and hangovers, gifts and disasters.

    You fill our cups.

    I thank you for a hundred gifts, and wish you well. I thank you for your brews and blends, for getting the light and acoustics right, for providing this place to meet and learn.

    Take care of your self, Betsy. Thanks for so many things, including keeping me moving.

  17. Don’t you know it’s going to be alright…

  18. I’m with Shanna. Do what you want. The only person you owe is your daughter. Do right by her and you’ve earned your stripes.

    I feel so lucky to have been a part of it all. Thank you.

  19. Small change? You are our lucky six-pence Betsy.

  20. I jumped on the ‘writing-blog’ read-fest wagon a couple of years ago. Loved and read Nathan. His Conestoga still trudges along, but as an author now, not an agent.
    I joined Jessica’s wagon-train; she headed on without us pilgrim dreamers about a year ago.
    Found Betsy and what began as admiration, appreciation and awe for what she does as an author, agent and blogger, for me, ended a couple of weeks ago.

    You were right Betsy, when you said in your rejection: “this is going to be harsh”. It was because I approached you as a friend from here and found out I really was not one.

    So my friend, and at my end I use that term honestly, this is going to be harsh.

    You said, “…my persona on the blog is not the person you are submitting to.” You were wrong. My dear you are one in the same. At this moment, I reject your rejection, at this moment I reject the agent-you and embrace the woman who blogged us all through our difficult life and writing times. I have met some amazing writers here and I will miss them terribly.

    As an author who has submitted to you, as a reader of your writings, as a blogger and as a woman fighting many of the same demons you fight every day, thank you for your time and the crumbs of hope you tossed my way on this blog.

    As your wagon heads west I wish you inspiration, love, peace and may your mind calm and your life swell.

    To quote Bob Hope, “Thanks for the memories.”

    • And…if this is not the end and you are not saying good-bye…I am.
      Tet, Frank, Mike,Janine, Averil and all of you too numerous to mention, I love you all, respect your efforts and may we we all sit in the same row at Betsy’s first screening.

      • It was a pleasure, Wry. Just so you know, I like to smuggle beer into movie theaters. I pop the tops during the loudest scenes and have been busted more than once when I inadvertently kick the bag and rattle the bottles during tender, quiet scenes, embarrasing all with me.

      • That’s okay with me Mike. I have to pee so often the row stands up more than a bunch of Methodists during a Sunday service. Along as you share, I’ll sit next to you.

      • MikeD, I want to watch movies with you.

      • A six pack of something good and a flask of Kentucky bourbon, maybe Woodford Reserve, and we’ll be crying at the end.

      • I agree that’s why I’m getting out of this whole thing. Sorry folks it’s obvious I am just too uncool. I get it.

      • Happy trails, Wry. Do what you feel. I got the beer.

    • It is astounding to me that you think it’s appropriate to air your grievances about a private email between you and Betsy in the comment thread of her very public blog.

    • I’m dreading the day when I start the f’ing query process again. Querying Betsy will take everything I’ve got just because her opinion matters. But I’d kill for a “this is gong to be harsh”. That’s a gift as much as anything else she’s written. Time to grow a set, wry. Nothing to do with cool or uncool. Hang in there. Be kind.

  21. I don’t know about all that. I come here because you’re fun.

  22. Another internet casuality. The e-world, with its faux relationships & optimism, is death to writing and in many ways, to self. I say we all stick to our notebooks for a while.
    Best to you, Betsy. May the poems flow again very soon.

  23. It was a great run, Betsy. And yes, I picked up a few things along the way. Thank you. Some days were literarally(literarily?) inspiring and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has benefitted from your wisdom and generosity. The unexpected bonus has been interacting with the wonderful fellow writers who come together on this site. Happy trails. And don’t look back.

  24. Wow, so many goodbyes. I never think of being blocked as an ending. You’ll rise up again somewhere, sometime. You could be back blogging tomorrow or in a month or come out with a new book or show up on Ellen or start a new blog about cats or making sausage. I’m a fan so it doesn’t matter. Wherever thou goest and all…

  25. Maybe just let it hang for awhile? If we hear from you, we hear from you. And if we don’t, we don’t.

    If this is it though, I will miss your thought provoking posts Betsy and all of the perspectives I’ve gained through the writers here. And for those of you here with blogs, I will still be following your posts! I hope I’m not losing you all at once!

  26. Okay, so maybe I’m a dumb ass, but I don’t read this as a permanent goodbye or the final curtain call. I’m sitting here chewing my lip, staring at her words, is this really the good bye Betsy would give us? I mean,wouldn’t there be a more formal au revoir…see you when I see you, (on bookshelves we hope), or the sort of post in Betsy style that would close this thing down, the formal hanging out of a tile that says “THE END” or simply “CLOSED?” Maybe this is why I would never have made a good lawyer…I’m not good at reading between the lines.

    I look at this blog before I look at my darn emails. And my emails might have something from my agent or editor – so there you go, that’s how much I have enjoyed this space. I have loved it here, and I have said things here no one else gets to hear. Does that count for anything? Here, I am… ME.

    • Here, first and last to read of my day.

      • Yeah, I should say that it’s the first thing I read PLUS I keep checking to see more comments…so I’m lurking around on here more than once a day. (more addictive than FB…)

    • I hear you, but this blog has always been unique in that it’s a one way street. There’s very little give & take between the poster & reader. There aren’t any regular responses and maybe the writer, whoever she/he is… Betsy? her intern? some random scribe? is moving on. It’s the risk you take whenever you go online. You really never know who you’re dealing with.

      • True. I guess I put a lot of stock in being able to blather on about what I want to say behind the online name and pic. (like now) I mean what the hell, why not, it’s about as obscure as the inside of a car and having an attack of road rage. Right?

  27. Okay, I have to chime in one last time.

    BETSY, sorry I had to shout to get her attention. No bullshit.

    That you would doubt how you have changed the lives of writers here astounds me. That you would think you had little to do with unsticking the stuck is unbelievable. This blog has been a path for many of us to learn and understand, not just the realm and art of writing but the ‘mind’ of us. We are all struggling, we are all dreamers, we are all the same and different in every way. Stuck, unstuck, published or still working and waiting, you BETSY, and yes I’m shouting your name again, you flattened the forest for us. (Yes, that was a reference to your book.)

    You have one life to life, live it well, enjoy your daughter, and don’t be afraid of eating a donut. (Yes that was a reference to your other book.)

    You have shared your own struggles with life and writing, (Yes that was a reference to your screenplay.)

    Let us know when you get ‘the call.’ And please let us in on what it’s like to win an Oscar. You are the closest many of us will ever get to the dream coming true.

    Even though you pissed me off, I wish you the very best.

  28. For what it’s worth, I love this blog. Quite possibly more than my own.

  29. This is starting to sound like my funeral, a popular fantasy. The best part of writer’s funerals is that the speeches are so well written. I always hoped if I predecease Patti smith that she would play Paths That Cross at the memorial. So what is going on? I think I need to slow down and stop deluding myself about how much time posting takes. And takes away from writing. Anyway, I would never leave without saying goodbye. Betsy

    • I’m “chiming” in for the first time. Hi all! I’ve been a stalker too long–too intrigued to leave, and too afraid to barge in. I don’t even have a calling card (aka cool name). But I’m hopeful we’re not hearing funeral bells– cause I gotta say, I ‘m not only taken in by Betsy’s crisp, clear words, but also by the scope of her pics and the incredible breadth of those lyric allusions. What an incredible trilogy of messages. Please stay!!!

    • Good to hear…and a good reason :)

  30. I’m hoping you just take a short break, catch your breath, and find more to say soon. I’ve really enjoyed your blog, especially your questions for all of us. Thank you!

  31. Oh my, when things get rolling, they really roll. What I read is that the freely expressive Madame Lerner is talking about block. Maybe I’m wrong, but I didn’t hear a note of finality.

  32. Okay, this is probably selfish but I don’t want you to quit blogging here. Your thoughts, your writing have often been an inspirational impetus for me. You are such a fine writer. While I know screenwriting is your passion, your prose, so lushly perfect and glorious seems to me would be best served in novel form. But regardless of your decision, I’m behind you all the way. It’s just hard to say goodbye to someone you’ve come to admire for so many reasons. Please don’t quit, but if you must, then you must and so be it.

  33. Wow, this is some great entertainment today. As a lurker who only occasionally chimes in, I come to this blog to tune in to Betsy’s poetic, insightful shots of sequin-studded and sometimes-depressing reality, and most of all to gain inspiration, which she never fails to deliver. Everyone else in the clan, whether you happen to be digitally talkative or not, obviously feels the same way otherwise you wouldn’t spend hours of your life baring your souls in this way. Let’s just appreciate this blog for what it is: a place for writers to connect. If Betsy’s feeling blocked, maybe it’s because she’s feeling badgered by her own followers. Wry, you’re a beautiful person, as we all are, but you’re deluded if you think Betsy owes you anything because you’re a regular on her blog. Let it go. Resilience and perseverance are the name of the game. Haven’t you read the book? And Betsy, you’ve got to know you are wildly appreciated. Your daily dose of the mastery, the profound, the profanity and the vulnerability has a revving effect that keeps us all coming back. You know you’ve unstuck us. Everyone needs a breather now and again, and if it’s time to move on then that’s your call, but please don’t quit because your disciples have the occasional tantrum in the sandbox. Forgive me if I speak for the collective here but I feel fairly well-informed when I say it’s just our nature.

  34. Wow big huge selfish whine that you shouldn’t quit blogging because… well, selfish whine is over.

    Seriously though. If the beautifully eloquent outpouring of love and affection and proof of your indelible positive stamp and influence isn’t enough … I’ll add to the chorus. Finding your blog last year (from your post on the Andrew and the NBA awards from a coworker) was a lifeline! Everyone here is so lovely and generous. That starts with you.

    You set the tone and fuck, well inspire us. I’m about to finish a memoir revision that I’d never done had I not read your post about it maybe not being good enough. Can I even begin to express my gratitude for that? And not sound like a complete ass-kissing suck up? Probably not. I’ll miss your blog terribly. I’ll miss everyone’s response and conversations terribly.

    Can we continue this community here? Does anyone else anticipate feeling bereft?

    Betsy, it feels weird to address you as we’ve never met but much love to you. In all your adventures.

  35. I’ve been gone so long (celebrating a holy month, but also binging on Facebook like it’s potato chips), and now come back to find that Betsy’s talking about hanging up her dancing shoes. Ah, well, nothing is permanent in this world. But Betsy, there are so many dark forces trying to snuff out good (and by “good,” I mean first-graders in Connecticut), maybe you should just take a little break, and then return and share your light with us again. It will go out all too soon anyway, even if you live to be a hundred and eight. So shine on us while you can. Let’s all shine. (And I know I should follow my own advice.)

  36. You were/are astringent. I appreciated that.

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