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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Oh, How It Feels So Real

Today, walking to my lunch date, I had a brainstorm about my first screenplay and how to adapt it for television.  And in the next moment, a scene for the fucker I’m currently “working on” started writing itself in my head. I took out my pad and wrote down the three key words that would help me remember the scene later: fidelity, regression, wrap around dress.

And then I went to lunch and met a new client for the first time. She had a tremendously lusty laugh and it was great to finally meet after months of phone and email. She had to run for a train, but instead of leaving with her I ordered a cappuccino (even though I recently read that people in Europe only drink cappuccino for breakfast, and when Americans order it for after lunch or dinner they appear unsophisticated, drinking a big glass of milk in the middle of the day like a school boy). But I digress.

Instead of checking the blackberry and glaring at the waitress for the bill, I relaxed for five minutes, sipped my cappuccino, and thought more about the two projects. When I was young and wrote pomes, they always started in my head and clipped along in my brain all day. When I stopped writing, the clopping stopped, too. For me, being most alive is cinematic, is my brain away from my cranium, is making up shit that is true, or rings true, or rings twice. It’s usually a good sign when I start writing in my head. However, it may also signal time to see my doctor.

Do you write in your head? More important, do you get it down on paper?

40 Responses

  1. Funny you should mention. Day before yesterday I didn’t get to sleep until after 8am. Why? Because I’m a vampire. No, because my screenplay was working itself. It wasn’t writing so much as unwinding itself and ingesting the research I’d been doing and trying to set itself linear again. I do love that, though to be honest there are then times that I assume I’ll be able to go straight from there to literally writing it only to find it didn’t make itself quite so linear as I thought. Still love it.

  2. i keep a red felt tip pen in the tray under my car radio and write words on my palm while driving to work. right now, i still have markings from when my last writing-while-driving idea came to me yesterday morning. the words: meri public scandal

  3. I get my best ideas at the most inopportune times for jotting notes: while walking the dog, taking long drives, or during restroom breaks. (TMI on that last one?) By the time I return to pen and paper, my short-term memory never recalls half the great shit I envisioned while I was otherwise occupied. I once ran off the road while trying to take notes in the car. For the welfare of others on the highway, I probably should invest in a digital voice recorder.

  4. Do you write in your head?

    Not so sure that I “write” in my head, but I constantly create stories. I feel them and can have some visualization of them, but never concrete words. Only recently did I realize that not everyone had a running fictional narrative in their head.

    • When I’m writing, I’m always going over the sentence structure while I’m walking the streets of New York City. I memorize most of my passages and practice them out loud. Even my query letter gets polished from the Village to the Lower East Side. I’m often searching for the perfect word and find it out on the streets. Then I have to rush home to type it in.

  5. Oh, I totally write in my head, and it’s brilliant. Of course, when I manage to get it on paper, it magically turns into crap.

  6. I write in my head – or in the shower – and have tiny scraps of paper floating around the house with the smatterings of what came out of my brain. Hopefully one day they’ll assemble themselves into something cohesive.

    But I do love when I’m troubled over how to work out some problem with my writing, think I’ve forgotten about it, and suddenly the answer pops into my head.

  7. I’m damn proud of my All-Day-Whenever-I-Feel-Like-It-Cappuccino-Drinking. Those Europeans, always so picky dicky about beverages.

    I write brilliantly in my head. All the time. Regrettably, once words appear on the screen it’s a lot like that POS mirror in my bathroom – distorting what was so perfect in my mind.

    It’s all good, though. Just like my imperfect body, my writing is better appreciated by people with a sense of humor.

  8. Funny, just yesterday I told my husband that I like to finish my morning run a mile from home.

    “I need to walk at the end,” I explained. He asked why and I said, “Because that’s when I write.”

  9. I think you’ll find that it is only Italians who drink cappuccino as a breakfast drink. That was its original function. But with the advent of ‘coffee shops’ across Europe it is drunk all day long across most of Europe, probably Italy too. One thing I’ll never do though is order one after a meal – that really does feel like baby behaviour.

  10. Sentences come to me fully constructed. It’s usually the beginning or the end of a story, novel, chapter or scene. It’s the punch that arrives full blast, leaving me to fill in the bits later.

    And I have to write it down or I forget. I pull over if I’m driving and tap it into the iPhone and if I’m in the shower I repeat the line until I get out and write it on whatever is closest. I’ve used eyeliner.

  11. Oh, my the conversations I have in my head!!! Yes, I write in my head . . . all the time. In a lot of cases, I can figure out whether the story can go somewhere, or whether there is a big gaping plot hole that I’ll never fill.

    At some point, the ideas get down on paper. Now, if I get goosebumps while conversating in my mind, well, I grab pen and paper and start writing. I’ve lost so much brilliance before because I just kept writing in my head and wasn’t able to remember things clearly!


  12. I write all my poems in my head, nearly in their entirety, before I write anything down. I miss half the stuff that way, but the other half? That’s the cream. I can’t do it any other way. I tried once, and I had a whole sheet of lines that started poems. It was nothing more than a line list in the end. I called it, “waiter, the line list, please,” and instead of 20 brilliant poems, I had a single weird one.

  13. happens for me when i’ve been writing earlier in the day, banging my head against the wall trying to shake the words loose, and then pick up a book to read while i wait for my daughter at gymnastics or my son at the ortho or in bed and there they come…words which i scribble onto the margins of the pages i’m reading at the time…only tends to happen when i’m reading fiction…never happens with a magazine or the paper

  14. Of course we all write in out heads, Betsy, that’s silly. Where else would we?

    P.S.Leslie Miller…you take humdinger photos. Gorgeous work.

    P.S.S. August…I was thinking about your post yesterday. You are the Marie Antoinette of bitter, ya know that? Very French. Also…beautiful.

    • Long live the Queen!

    • I guess I mean writing in your head when you are not in front of your computer or holding a pen. Not even thinking about your work in the abstract but forming actual sentences. One of my favorite quotes is from James Thurber, “I never quite know when I’m not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, ‘Dammit, Thurber, stop writing.'”

  15. I also have started writing in my head a lot especially when I am walking or exercising. I used to listen to podcasts when I walked my dog to the park in the morning but now I don’t cause I write and walk. I bring my blackberry and just take notes on what I am writing. The first version of many a blog post for Women & Hollywood happens on the way to Prospect Park. I also came up with a section for the book I am working on while jogging through the park.

  16. Even at the dog park, I carry a pen a 3×5 index card in case I have to “take dictation.” In the shower I write on the steamy glass.

  17. My best stuff comes in the shower and I have to keep repeating it until I can get it written down. Sometimes two or three gems appear during the same shower and I feel like that guy on The Ed Sullivan Show who kept running around like a fool in a fit trying to keep a bunch of plates spinning on sticks, but usually all my plates fall and break.

    I consider cappuccino after lunch a second dessert.

  18. I definitely write in my head. Especially when I am lying semi-awake in bed in the wee hours. My head writing is always brilliant, perfect, a thing of heartbreaking beauty. But then by the time I’m up and awake it has slipped away never to be resurrected. Yep, it’s a pity but there it is.

  19. Oh, Betsy. You are so sweet beneath.

  20. Absolutely. Usually while I’m in bed, trying to fall asleep. I write brilliant stuff then, though I’m too lazy to get up and write it down. I try to figure out a way to remember it in the morning — words to jolt my memory — but it never works and I am left with the vague disappointment of knowing I had something really good, and lost it.

  21. Maybe the implied question here is “When is a writer not writing?” Looks like most of us are in some sense writing all the time, either consciously working on it or letting things percolate subconsciously. Also looks like most of us have learned to expect those times when the subconscious process brings us a conscious result–the shower, the bathroom break (that one happens to me too), driving or walking, even reading–and have found ways to capture what comes.

    I read long ago that Thomas Hardy was gardening one day when he had an idea for a novel that would be better than any of his others. He figured he’d remember it until he finished and got inside to write it down. He didn’t.

  22. I always write in my head. Writing in your head cuts out a lot of endless revising because you can sort things out before you put them on paper. I carry a tiny notebook with me to jot down reminders.

  23. i often achieve clarity while swimming laps and, you know, paper dissolves in water.

  24. Yes! I do it, too. To support my habit, I invest in Target’s $buck-97 3-packs of Mead mini spiral notebooks. I fork over the cold hard cash so I can stick ’em everywhere. (That sounds dirty. Now *I* digress.) Anyway, the spiral is at the top, so I flip the cover and I’ve always got a patch ready for my .5mm ball point. Coat pocket, car, nightstand, book bag. My best writing comes at the oddest times and not when I sit at a desk. Most often when I’m horizontal. Take that for what it’s worth.

  25. I can’t tell you the number of scenes that have unfolded in my mind while I’m in the shower or driving in the car. I’ve decided it has something to do with white noise.

    Regardless, I keep notebooks everywhere, just for this reason. One is covered in water droplets from jotting down dialog before bothering to dry myself off. The other is a tiny comp book that is wrinkled and torn from living in my purse and being snatched out so I can jot down notes after randomly pulling over to the side of the road.

    When I’m really submerged in a project, I’ve even been known to rush out of a movie or into a less busy room at a party, notebook and pen in hand.

    When people give me funny looks, my husband just smiles sheepishly and says, “Writer.”

    I’ve trained him well.

  26. It’s not ideas that I get in my head: it’s specific phrases that feel like revelations. But when I type them out, they are trite digressions of my project. Sadly, I’m not someone who profits from “insight”: I have to just keep slogging away, and editing. My music- making is enhanced by altered states and inspiration, but my writing needs focused, sober work. Maybe it’s different for poets. . . .

  27. yeah, they also refuse to put chairs in their cafes and when they do, they charge you to sit down. apparently no one in europe gets tired legs either …

    i write in my head for sure. usually when i’m about to fall asleep or in those early waking hours. i have a pen next to my bed, but usually my sleepy self wins out. i have a trick for memorizing the idea so that i can recall it the next morning. but if i am really tired or it is really complex, i’ll get my lazy ass out of bed to write it down or else feel sorry in the morning.

    great post – thanks!

  28. I write in my head constantly but it’s not in words, or even in pictures really, more like a weird other-world energy, a story happening around me and to me. Sometimes I make notes but it seems to work best if it finds its own way to the page in its own time. When this isn’t happening internally, I have no overwhelming interest in my WIP.

  29. Can’t get my comments to work…

  30. Oh – finally it worked!!

    I write in my head all the time. Sometimes I think I’ve written the thoughts down and I look everywhere for the relevant scrap of paper until I realize that I never did actually write anything down.

  31. I write in my sleep! Seriously, there are some nights I get up at 2AM and turn the computer on to write out a scene.

    I also, get irritated when I’m writing in my head and someone wants to talk to me. Sometimes I feel like saying ‘Do you mind? I’m writing!’

  32. Oh yeah, always writing in the head. And yet another reason why America rocks: we can drink our cappuccino whenever we please – and our milk too. I’ve been known to order milk at lunch when people were throwing around a little too much ostentatiousness. But those kind of people are too easy. Had most of them wondering why they didn’t have the sense to order such a beneficial drink.

  33. Yep, that’s pretty much what happens. Something starts writing itself in my head and then I have to find paper (or my laptop) in a hurry. Of course it tends to occur at the most inconvenient moments where I have to be engaged in something else.

  34. Whenever my wife sees me sitting on the sofa, legs up, martini in hand, she asks, “What are you doing?”

    My answer?


    I work every day, at least a little, and whatever was on grill in that moment, gets written down.

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