• THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

    THE FOREST FOR THE TREES is about writing, publishing and what makes writers tick. This blog is dedicated to the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gather here. 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

  • Follow me

  • Archives

Faces Come Out of the Rain

I know I can be, um, blunt and off putting, but I want to talk about depression and how much it affects writers and how we are going into the dark months. As I’ve shared here, I’m bi-polar and thankfully have been stable since 1996 which means I’m up for my silver equilibrium anniversary. I don’t take this for granted. I’m vigilant about my medication and seeing my doctor and getting my blood drawn. I was probably in therapy for 20 of those 25 years. I have never forgotten those years in my teens and twenties with shame and loss and and terror. The thing about depression (and mania) is the belief that will never end. It does end. Medication (though it may take some time to find the right ones and doses) works. Therapy helps. I kept diaries throughout my hospitalizations and they all say one thing, in essence, which is I do want to live just not like this. Oh, and I had a crush on another patient named Kyle.

Please beloved community of freaks and geeks, take care. This is going to be a hard winter. What’s your strategy? What are you working on?

I’m Not Too Blind to See

I just watched this documentary about artists and actors, and they ALL agreed that what’s most meaningful to them about their work is the PROCESS. Process, shmocess. I’m sorry but I don’t give a fuck if you get up at 5.am. or write all night. I don’t care if you put on a bow tie or sit in urine-soaked sweats. I don’t care if you read poetry first to “prime the pump” or if you can’t read anyone else’s work while you’re writing except Jonathan Swift lest you pollute your vision. Notebook, legal pad, computer, I don’t care if you write the sentences on the roof of your mouth. I don’t want to watch you eat, I don’t want to watch you masturbate, I don’t want to see your grocery list, I don’t care about your dog and how some of your best thoughts come while you’re stacking the dishwasher. Don’t tell me about your dreams, ever. I don’t care how you thought you were writing one thing when you started and now it’s something else! I’m more interested in how a magician turns a coin into a woman sawed in half than how a poem, burp, became a short story that, burp, meant to be a novel. What am I interested in? RESULTS.

Will I burn in hell?

You Were Only Waiting for this Moment to Be Free

Let’s write the fuck out of this year. I mean balls to the wall. Lunch money! Pirate teeth! Bone marrow! The eastern chipmunk! The unfurled flag! I want to eat my pages. I want to go viral, I want to direct, I want to lose myself in a holy transference. When I go out to pick up my paper at 5:00a.m., the world is dark and quiet. The leaves scrape like my dad’s razor. Every day at exactly the same time, a man walks by swinging a blue flashlight to mark the way. Sometimes I wish he would take me away.

What the fuck is wrong with us?

Are You Ready for a Brand New Beat

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid' - Baltimore Sun
Woodward and Bernstein

I came of age during the Watergate era. The journalists were the heroes. Politicians were gross. I adopted an air of apathy toward government, which made it easy not learn anything or try to change anything. Look how well that turned out. So today as I consume my 14th Diet Orange Crush and channel surf, I’ve been thinking about the writer’s responsibility. What do we owe ourselves, our readers, and the larger world. Are we under any obligation to be part of the literary community? Give back? And if so, what does that look like. Honestly, I’ve always liked the part of being a writer where you got to stay in your hole and watch the shoes and hems shuffle by.

How are we going to write about this day?

Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work

I’m not going to say who, but someone I’m QUARANTINED with just called my writing “facile.” Am I a monster because I never get writer’s block? Because I never get tired and love nothing more than a twelve hour day at my computer, at the end of it my spine talcum, my eyes begging for mercy in the form of a little green bottle of “tears.” Yes, I cry fake tears. I’m a person for fuck’s sake. I love writing. I love free soloing. I love the sound of a tiny tapping army.

How do you get off?

Just Like Me They Long To Be Close to You

So great to hear from long-timers and some new folks. Welcome to the asylum. So this writing business. I’ve had a pretty manic spell, at least for someone who has been medicated since 1997. I’m just a surfer now, no high octane highs, no debilitating lows. And every day I’m grateful for my salmon colored tablets that introduce my brain to salt. Good to see you! But I still get these…bursts possibly related to abject fear for the planet. So like 80,000 words or thereabouts and sold some books and like that. Am I jacked up on Coke Zero? Am I high on life, on terror, on hope?

Please stay on your meds or get them tweaked. How’s the mental health? What fuels you right now?

p.s. does anyone know how to drop in pictures. I seem to have lost the knack.

One Toke Over the Line Sweet Jesus

Oh my goodness. Where have we been and where are we going? What is a writer’s responsibility in a pandemic, in an election, in a time of unrest and agitation, violence and injustice? Are we small and insignificant? Are we the mighty sword? How do you write when people are dying, when suffering is pervasive, when the economy is tanking, when governors are kidnapped, when all the dogs have been adopted.

I’ve missed you all. Catch us up. xo

Everything You Own in a Box to the Left

 

Where do you come down on the nature v. nurture debate when it comes to writing? Is writing an innate ability? Are there writing genes? Were you exposed to writers or books as a child? Did anyone read to you? Did you have any writing mentors? Why do you think you write instead of paint, or tie fishing lures, or build computers? Is writing a god-given talent, a tweak on the DNA, or some bad circuitry in your brain.

Discuss.

You’re Just Too Good To Be True

John Varvatos 804 Old Fashioned Half Frame Reading Glasses

I’ve never been the kind of person to tuck in my shirt, use bobby pins, or follow a recipe. I’m happy standing over the sink with a cheese sandwich so as not to dirty a plate. I choose my bookmarks with care, I stack a dishwasher like a jigsaw, and I always leave my reading glasses in the same place. I don’t believe that when one door closes another opens. I don’t even want to believe it. I want to believe that I will win an Oscar. Full stop.

What kind of person are you?

You’re Only Dancing on this Earth for a Short While

I feel like the girl on the train or the girl in the window or the girl lurking inside a dank doorway waiting for a cab she never called. What I’m saying is I can’t seem to account for the time. What day is it? What time is it? When did I last check in? Where am I? Where are you? Is writing the least or most important thing? At the beginning of the pandemic I had three projects I was manically working on from one to the next. I bought new binders! Finally: time. For a week or so I thought I found the meaning to life: staying home, endless hours to write. Only now the projects are languishing and I can’t find my dick with my own hands.

What are you all up to? Healthy, I hope. xoxo