• 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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How Can a Loser Ever Win

 

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The eternal battle: creative work v. life, mini-golf, grilled swordfish, a walk below a rusted train track, a young boy running with a fish as if all the world was caught between his two small hands. Mother in the hospital saying go home which means stay just a little longer. Lady in the next bed screaming abuse, constipation, never sick a day in her life, now in my life with her emoji eyes, her knees bulbous like an old mare. This contract, that headache, internet down, my own constipation a metaphor for what. My own hospital bed. My own head.

How do you clear the decks?

 

Hold Me Like You’ll Never Let Me Go

 

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Going on vacation. Plan to write my ass off. Like carpal, back pain, skin decimation, self loathing/love, seven day sweat pants, and couldn’t be happier. Being alone writing is the sandbox, mesmerized by the sand slipping through your hands, the fine dust lit by the sun. My idea of fun is begging the monitor for a simile. Oh, I love similes, the more knitted in the better. For all this yakking, I’ll probably choke. Not write a word worth saving. Why does talking about a project seem to sap it of its essential oils?

Are you superstitious about writing?

I Said I Like It Like That

 

vegetable-gardenIn an interview with Anne Tyler in the NYT the other day, she inadvertently left a comment on my blog! In answer to how long can you go without writing, she said: What happens is six months go by after I finish a book and I start to go out of my mind. I have no hobbies, I don’t garden, I hate travel. The impetus is not inspiration, jut a feeling that I better do this.

I love this comment because I don’t believe in inspiration. I believe in compulsion, obsession, loneliness, intensity, fear, desire, ambition, revenge and confusion.

What about you?

It’s Getting to the Point Where I’m No Fun Anymore

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What is summer vacation to a writer? Not a trick question. It’s more time to write. It’s more time to not bathe, more time to stand at the sink eating a sandwich, more time to jerk off, more time to count the headlights on the highway, more time to scrub the tub, to wake up early and stay up all night. You might buy a pack of Marlboro Lights and who could fault you. You might give up on you hair and who could fault you. You might destroy a toe. It’s been known to happen. You do not take vacations even when you take vacation. The world is a sore you need to poke, an engine to tinker. You are nothing, you are everything, this is the sun over Idaho, the clouds in San Marcos, you never picked a fight except right here.

Got any plans?

And I’ve Been Waiting Such a Long Time

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I’m stepping up to the altar and committing to a new project. I thought I wasn’t ready, had trepidation, tried to get people close to me to talk me out of it. They just rolled their eyes. Honestly, how long can you circle the ring, can you watch the electricity snap the wire? How long can you pretend that you’re just tired, burned out, oh the misery, beloved misery. I remember walking up the aisle, my parents by my side, me a step ahead. I was in a hurry to marry my destiny. My husband once said, “you can’t second guess things that haven’t happened.” It sounded good.

How long can you go without writing?

Say a Little Prayer for Me

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This week I got a call from an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a few years. This can only mean one thing. She has a manuscript or someone she knows has a manuscript. I can barely bring myself to return the call.  I can already hear myself explaining how I don’t handle fiction, or not taking on new clients for the foreseeable future, or blinded myself accidentally on a fireplace poker, or threw myself down a flight of cement stairs, or stepped in front of the M5. Turns out she didn’t have a manuscript at all.

 

 

Everything You Love is Gonna Leave You

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I just finished a million page book about one of my favorite poets, Robert Lowell. I’ve read his collected prose, his letters with Elizabeth Bishop, his poems, and yet it came as a horrible shock when I read about his final months, weeks, and his last day. I was a senior in high school when I bought my first collection of his poems, “Day by Day.” I had no idea who he was. I was attracted to the cover and I opened the book to a poem called “For Sheridan.” Thus began a lifelong love of Robert Lowell.

The poem starts:

We only live between/ before we are and what we were

And ends:

Past fifty, we learn with a surprise and a sense

of suicidal absolution

that what we intended and failed

could never have happened —

and must be done better.

 

What was going on in my seventeen year old mind?