• 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’m Martin Sheen I’m Steve McQueen I’m Jimmy Dean

Working on a chapter though it feels more like a game of whack-a-mole. Every time I move a section into what feels like the right place, another hole opens up. How many craters can you see on the moon with your naked eye? Back ache, hands ache, dry eye and flatbread pizza. Five hours, nine, twelve. I’m holed up in a hotel in downtown Detroit working and all that’s missing is a pack of Luckys and a pair of nylons drying in the bathroom. I like to see how many hours I can go without speaking to a human being. Five hours, nine, twelve. I like it when I can think of the word.

Where do you write?

 

We’ve All Gone to Look for America

I had the great good fortune to visit Georgia O’Keeffe’s home over the weekend. The first thing I noticed was a wooden ladder resting against the wall lit by a noon sun, then a collection of rocks, then her humble single bed and the mountains beyond. Black cows and white horses in the valley below.  I was aware of the presence of greatness, a singular mind whose life was dedicated to art. No questions asked. Something so undeniable, so all encompassing. What was I thinking in my twenties working on my poems, spreading them out on the floor, pacing and smoking. Did I dream of being poet or was I already divided, in search of a job that would sustain me. O’Keeffe understood that making art would sustain her. Could there ever have been doubt with walls the color of cream, brown floors mixed with the blood of oxen. Standing in her courtyard and kitchen, her studio and storage room, to look at her spices and yogurt machine, it all made me feel full of wonder and longing and awe.

Who inspires you?

 

Ain’t No Valley Low Enough

Image result for martini shakerGood news, bad news. Rejection, acceptance. Invited to the party, snubbed. For once they put enough lime in my gin and tonic. For these small things I am grateful. The woman at the bar so vigorously shook the martini canister that I thought I heard the ice rumbling around and felt the coldness near my neck. Red light, green light. Bank account. How much time can you buy to write. Today, on the plane I was surrounded by a family of five. The father attended to all of the children while the mother zoned out watching episodes of Ozark on her device. You made yourself and you can break yourself. Don’t forget it.

Between writing and not writing, where are yon on the spectrum?

If I Can’t Have You I Don’t Want Nobody Baby

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I once had a very contentious negotiation with a lawyer who was representing a producer. I was in way over my head and stayed extremely quiet for most of the conversation for fear of making a mistake. The lawyer grew increasingly frustrated with my silences and I realized I could use this to my advantage. The more he talked, the more he gave away. The less I talked, the more control I had. Finally, when he couldn’t stand it any longer, he said, “Look, sometimes you just have to open the kimono!”  It’s incredible the things people will say.

How do you keep your kimono?

 

 

 

And In My Head I Paint a Picture

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I took pottery lessons as a child. The teacher came around and put his hands over our hands to demonstrate how to center the clay.  It’s a very difficult thing to learn, especially for small hands. The wheel has to go around very fast in order to center the clay, but the speed also makes it very difficult to control. When the teacher came to my station, he linked his thumbs and flapped his hands like a bird.  See? Then he put his hands over mine and applied pressure. The clay immediately conformed. He took his hands away and the clay didn’t wobble. Right there in my own small hands, the clay was a perfect disc. I was able to center clay from that day forward. It wasn’t anything I ever had to think about.

What is this post about?

We Don’t Have Tomorrow But We Had Yesterday

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I recently got some amazing notes on my script. It required cutting a bunch of scenes I had  put a lot of much work into. But I understood immediately upon hearing the notes that they were right. It was like the best haircut I’ve ever had, understanding of course that I’ve never had a good haircut including the one I gave myself in the fifth grade. Great editing is also like losing weight, though again I know very little about that, too.

Challenge: how much can you cut from your current project?

Words are Flowing Out Like Endless Rain Into a Paper Cup

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You have two choices: write or don’t write. Suffer or suffer differently. Lose yourself or lose everything else. You have two choices: write or Netflix. You were a little girl and you kept a diary. You discovered poetry and thought you entered a secret world where you were not alone. Remember when you wrote on the train, your first book then your second. When you were manic you had an idea or five a day. You thought you could save every broken bird. What came of it besides heartache and despair? You stopped writing for five years, then for four, then three. You have no choice: stay on your meds. Write.

Happy new year friends of the blog. I love you! 2019!