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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Get Off of My Cloud



Do you get high? I mean for medicinal purposes, to help with the writing. Are you a pill popper? Gin drinker? Are you on prescription meds? Anti-depressants, beta-blockers, lithium for Medea? How do you get to sleep, wake up, stay up? How do you turn it off, on? Starbucks shots? Are you a sneak smoker, eater, tweaker? Sex addict? Claustrophobic? Writers make great hypochondriacs! If you’re not high on life, what the fuck are you?

What’s in your medicine chest?

Ain’t There One Damn Song That Can Make Me Break Down and Cry


Discipline, desire, commitment, obsession. What gets you up at five, your silhouette ghost-like in the dark pre-dawn windows. Why would you rather be alone than at a party thrown in your honor? Why does everything in the world seem dull unless you are writing? Transforming overheard conversation. Reaching for a simile that links up thematically. A eureka moment that fizzles. I deal with writers all day long and they are living in a parallel universe where there is hot soup, where they can’t find their pen, where their mothers love them. Ego without confidence. Confidence without ability. Ability that can’t find it’s own elbow. Love that doesn’t know its name.

What am I trying to say?

I Am Who I Am and Who I Am Is an Illusion



Dear All: I am living the dream. After going to three Patti Smith shows in LA, I am now spending a couple of days in Malibu editing a book I love on a balcony overlooking the ocean. In the far distance, a bunch of surfers are basking in the sun on their boards. Okay, the real dream would be for all this to happen without my eating stale Dean & Deluca candy off the mini bar as if I were a lab rat. If I didn’t pick all the polish off my toes. If I didn’t seize with panic attacks every hour and a half and do a blackhead patrol.

What’s your dream and would you fuck it up?

The Sun Is the Same in a Relative Way But You’re Older



So a writer approaches me with his manuscript. I see that he has fantastic credentials, has published widely and in all the right places. The concept seems muddy to me and I tell him so, describe how I would refocus the project. I think about taking it on, but step aside. Honestly, it feels like a lot of work with no certain outcome. Still, I provide a few comparison titles to give the writer my take on the project and urge him to find a new title. He’s very appreciative and asks for a few agent names. I don’t usually supply names (do your homework!), but I do here. The writer has been especially polite so what the fuck. He writes me today to let me know that one of the agents I recommended took it on, sold it for a bucket of money, and the book is debuting on the NYT bestseller list at #5. He’s writing to thank me.*

Thank me? How about fuck me? I guess I have to file this under win some lose some. Or I could beat myself forever and ever, which, if history is our guide, is my method of choice.

How do you punish yourself?

*this little anecdote is a composite of two stories.



I Ain’t No Monkey But I Know I Like


I did an event today with my mother. After the luncheon, I read a small passage from the book and then we took the stage. She in her Eileen Fisher, me in my Uniqlo. She accessorized up the wazoo. Me wearing my watch. Her nails flawless, mine chewed. Her hair styled, mine frizzy and unruly. A conversation ensued and, without warning, my darling 85 year old mother morphed into Rodney Dangerfield. She starts whipping off one-liners and zingers. And she’s getting all the laughs.In the car on the way home, she says, “Bets, I think I got the bigger laughs.”

Tell me about your mom.

Lenny Bruce Is Not Afraid


It’s really hard to think about writing, publishing, virtually anything while our world hangs in the balance. I’ve never been political in any of my blog posts and I doubt I have anything new to add to the conversation, but it really is hard to feel that anything matters. How do you write a book about butterflies, or calories, or Mark Twain’s beloved butler? How do you quiet all the voices, put your blinders on, and not think about Donald popping Tic Tacs and groping women. Let alone blowing up the world.

How do you do your work?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want



A lot of people are talking about Bob Dylan getting the Nobel Prize.

What say you?