• 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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The SUn Is Up The Sky Is Blue It’s Beautiful and So Are You

There is a reason they don’t let me out much. What was it? The beauty of the buildings, slate the color of pigeons, the girl with striped tights, purple water bottle swinging astride.  I sat alone in a church and listened to an organist sigh between pieces.I dined with bright minds and tried a new food. I bought a notebook that always spells hope. Flimsy, gorgeous new ideas that blossom and die in a moment. I am at Kenyon College and tomorrow I will talk about the writer’s life. You know that lonely clacking train, that aggravated assault, that self mutilation, that particular hope, that elegant insistence, that awkward moment, that drone in your head, that never ending conversation.

The writer’s life. How would you describe it?

44 Responses

  1. The Life of Beautiful Losers.
    (with thanks to Leonard Cohen)

    • “I sat alone in a church and listened to an organist sigh between pieces.”
      That is one of the most beautiful lines I’ve ever read. You’re beautiful Betsy. Thank you for sharing.

  2. The writer’s life is one of expectation and disappointment, unbridled joy and sadness so deep it sucks the very breath from your bones. But bones don’t breathe you say, oh yes they do, that’s how deep the feelings of failure. But when the bless-ed word, the perfect sentence, the bloody and salty you soaks the page, there is no greater moment. I would not trade the thrill of what I do or the minnow in a mud puddle I am for anything, well maybe just for one thing…

  3. a fundamental cluelessness is necessary for the writer’s life.

    • Yo Tet…I can smell weed rising off my Kindle from High Street. I’ve just started. You really should be more famous.

      • thank you, carolynn. tell everyone you know and let’s see if we can get that started. and tell everyone you don’t know, too, so’s we got all the bases covered.

        (no one believes me when i tell them i don’t smoke ennymoar. why iz dat? haz diss kat no cred?)

  4. don’t forget to tell them about all the sex. and the good drugs that writers keep tucked in the inside pocket of their waist-length army green prada jackets (“…look at this peacoat, tell me he’s broke”).
    and the hipster perks, the hot guys with beards and ironic t-shirts. always hanging out in the dives nobody knows about with the bands nobody knows…yet.
    and all the MONEY, whatever you do, don’t forget the money.
    tell them about their phones blowing up nonstop with endless opportunities.
    the $800 sushi dinners.
    emails from lena.
    direct tweets from aaron.
    tell them all of it.

    (jon steward just introduced fawzia koofi, the woman running for president of afghanistan. ten seconds into her story and i feel like a dip shit for writing such a paragraph.)

  5. More fun than a barrel of monkeys on a roller coaster.

    And just as much mess.

  6. Today I had a terrific conversation with these folks: http://www.books-booze.com/ . They were interviewing me and we got into that vast deep, the why. the love. the tango. and, oops, after the hour long interview there was a technical malfunction, so it’s as if it never happened. Story of my life. The shmeg of that that chat lingers, so here goes. If life, the kernel of life, calls you to fuck it sideways, through words and through those disparate visions that visit you in the night, well then, you must. Fuck the call for Happily Ever After. Forget that most of your waking hours involve the trespass of normative toil. Do it. Less and less people are actually doing it. So you must. You must.

  7. Writers do not decide to write. It is the relentless haunting of words that choose the writer. It is the voices in your head that will not allow sleep until they are given form. Writers are hostages. Words our captures. Only in releasing them, are we free. Trying to find a slight of hand. A way to distract from their endless demands. To be a writer is like being a lion tamer. Trying to make prose leap from the page. Desperately attempting to beckon them, come closer. Sit here, lay there. Bidding them to come into the light, so that I may capture their essence. Their meaning. You may use them to build a fortress. To hid within. But they are the true tricksters. The more you attempt to conceal, the more they reveal. Leaving you naked and barefaced. Yes, being a writer is exactly like the ill trained lion tamer. With only your wits and cold coffee. There is no chance that you will come out not unscathed. Ripped open, but hopefully still breathing.

  8. I dunno I can’t romantize the writer’s life any longer. It’s like working for the railways. Push shunt grunt. Get it on the tracks, steaming, avoid unnecessary collisions. Sure it’s a thrill when it’s pounding through you, but then there is maintenance, fuel, gumption.

    Wish I could hop over and hear you speak.

  9. Dear Betsy, glad you came out to play.

    I can’t describe it any better than you did in the last sentence of this post.

    Here’s to new notebooks.

  10. Financially restrictive.

  11. It’s my happy place.

  12. Reblogged this on critiqueen5 and commented:
    Love her

  13. Have fun, Betsy.

  14. Like a sick colored carousel, methodically turning, never stopping, haunting your every minute. Churning in an empty field. It’s a harsh calliope setting the pace and tone, a worm of insistence threading through this thought–and now this one…and

  15. “…that lonely clacking train…” Indeed.

    Kenyon? You’re practically on my stomping grounds!

  16. Finally landing in a writing life has allowed me to hang out here, and other venues, with the intense, arty types, rather than the Ivy league jocks or medical people ALL DAY LONG. Phew!

    It allows me to hunt literary ghosts in stellar places: Paris, Greenwich Village, Boston, Bolinas, Provincetown, the rocky coast of Maine. I love seeing where they lived & fretted. It’s inspiring every time.

  17. Hyper aware. And hard, hard work.

  18. Stops and starts. Figure it out. Make it work. Learn from last time. Not. Never works the same way twice. Start again. Don’t quit. Can’t quit.

  19. Thick-skin-itis. Edit ’til you cry, and then edit some more. Extreme joy when something you write sings, and it makes someone else sing too.

  20. I only have a toe in the water, and it’s freezing.

  21. The writing life is possible if you can handle being alone…
    And thank you Betsy, for your organist (among other things)

  22. A friend and fellow writer recently admitted to me that she thinks many writers have a broader emotional range than the average person, that we feel what we feel more intensely than most.

    I agreed; I think our wells run deeper. (I don’t know that this is unique to writers. But it certainly seems a trend.) It means we are prone to bursts of joy as well as misery but ultimately, I think it makes for a richer life.

  23. Right now it feels like pressing my bare skin against hot iron. Let’s hope the brand will be beautiful.

  24. “The writer’s life. How would you describe it?”

    Like having bi-polar disorder.

  25. Similar to birth, a longer labor.

  26. Engrossing. Sometimes just gross.

  27. Heartbreaking, lonely, exhausting, frustrating — pretty much perfect.

  28. My (yet-to-be-published) writer’s life was quite nice this weekend: a chance to pitch to a publisher, lunch with my writing group, meeting with the book club, invited to attend a meeting by the committee organizing a literary prize dedicate to my late friend and, finally, enjoying a retro fondue party with writers, publishing people, librarians and a psychotherapist.

    Thank gawd Mardi Gras was last week!

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