• THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

    I wrote a book called THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. It's an advice book for writers, though it's more about what makes writers tick. 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. I post less frequently now, but hopefully with as much vitriol. Please join in!

    Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I’ve learned one thing about writers, it’s this: we really are all alone. Thanks for reading. Love, Betsy

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I Want It That Way

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I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but it’s on my mind. In his diary of making his first movie, Spike Lee said that whenever he talked about a project too much it wouldn’t happen. Whenever I succumb and tell a person what I’m working on, I feel ashamed later. What am I trying to prove? I always feel better when I don’t yap about my projects. It’s superstitious on one level, but it’s more than that. It’s about honoring the sanctity of your inner world.  Bam!

Are you a yapper or the silent type when it comes to your                                                          work?

First I Was Afraid I Was Petrified

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I spoke tonight at a writer’s conference. I hate breaking hearts and you can’t talk about trying to get published without invoking hardship and pain. How do you find an agent? How do you write a query letter? Do you need a social media presence? Everyone says they love my book, but no one wants to take it. It’s like one of those climbing walls where you get so far and then fall with no one to catch you. I try to be honest and entertaining, but I saw at least three people nodding out. I told myself that they had been in workshops all day or were shooting heroin.

What would you like to ask me. I’ll try to answer.

Is That You Baby or Just a Brilliant Disguise

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What I really love about writing is that when I’m writing I cease to exist. I cease to think about calories, bills, clients, frizz, my mother gone. I cease to think about unreturned calls, nursed hurts, the big scoreboard in the sky, the petty resentments, the regrets. Why do I want to disappear? Please. I wrote to escape as a child in a crawl space beneath the stairs. I kept diaries from high school on. One notebook after another creaking with ink, a roll call of heartbreak and slights real and imagined. I know I’m not alone, but I love being alone.

Why are you a writer?

 

My Love is Alive

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 I’ve been in publishing for thirty-three years. I feel like I’m eighteen and  wish I hadn’t partied so hard the night before taking the SATS. But my parents were out of town. What choice exactly did I have? Did I want to work in publishing? No. I wanted to run Paramount Films. I wanted to be a psychiatrist. I wanted to be a potter in Vermont and marry a quiet man. I wanted to write poems and self-destruct. I actually gave that the college try. LOL. I wanted to be in a writers’ room. I wanted to be a part of something smaller than myself. I did not want to be a hero, a victim, or a face in the crowd. I wanted to be free.

What did you want to be.

Is This the Place That I’ve Been Dreaming Of

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I hate it when someone asks at the Q&A when the writer gets his writing done. What is his process. Does it many any difference whether you write at dawn or after midnight? Does it matter if you write sitting down or standing up like Philip Roth? If you double space or single space. Helvetica or Times Roman? It doesn’t matter if you type or write in longhand. Whatever your process is, it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes I get dressed and sometimes I don’t. I have a cup of coffee and a brown pear and put all the words in a Cuisinart and study the blades. Do you really care where Hemingway petted his seven-clawed cats, what kind of rocks lined her pockets. Does it matter that Edith Wharton tossed her finished pages on the floor for her maids to pick up or that Thomas Hardy had mud on his boots when he wrote one of the saddest scenes in all of English literature.

 

I’ve Got To Get You Into My Life

PHOTO: Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in a scene from the movie Dirty Dancing.

When I was fifteen, I went to an “alternative” camp. There I met an older camper named Fred. He had long hair, a wash of freckles,  and a lot of swag. I’m quite sure he didn’t know I was alive (was I alive?), but I worshipped him from afar. One day, somehow, we got to talking outside the theater barn. It was there he told  me that he believed authentic feeling was all that mattered.  I disagreed. I believed that execution was all. We all have feelings, what separates artists and writers is their ability to execute a work of art.  He chided me for this. He was all for undiluted feeling. Did I still want to fuck him? Yes, of course. But it was a demarcation for me of people who believed in feeling over form.

Feeling or form? Where do you live?

 

 

When You Ain’t Got Nothing You Got Nothing To Lose

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Thank you for all the beautiful notes about losing my mom. Until now, I truly believed that there was no excuse for not writing. I believed that a writer should write under any conditions. That a “real writer” wasn’t derailed by things like love, war, life or death. I hated hearing writers make excuses for not getting their work done. Of course, I’d always act deeply sympathetic, but internally I was full of judgement and disdain. Since no one is asking you to write, since no one cares if you write, why would anyone want to hear your excuses for not writing. You’re literally not doing something that no one wants. I prided myself for writing all my books while holding a full time job. I prided myself for writing two books on the Metronorth train from New Haven to Grand Central. I prided myself for getting up at five and blah blah blah. Ever since my mother died, I’ve been in a fog. To avoid facing my own inability to concentrate, I have given myself seven pap smears, make a bumper crop of baked apples, reorganized my button tin, flossed, and brought a pair of slacks I bought in 2013 to the tailor.  I’m not humbled. I’m pissed. No one ever called Camus an asshole.

What stops you in your tracks?