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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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If You Don’t Know Me By Now

Today, I met with a writer who said she read my book, Food & Loathing. She said she couldn’t  “go there,” and that it must have been very painful to write. Defensively, perhaps perversely, I said that I had fun writing it. I loved figuring out the structure, moving the story along, recreating scenes.  Okay,  maybe a few fat tear drops fell on the keyboard from time to time; that too was satisfying.

I’m also very pragmatic and I had twenty-plus journals from that time that I wanted to use. I used to write in my diary every day until my mid twenties, and I had kept notes after every therapy session I ever went to. He said, she said. There was something else that motivated me: competition. All these people were writing about depression and two week hospitalizations. I was bi-polar with six months in the bin. I’m not saying I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro first with no gorp or oxygen, but I felt I knew something, had something to say, especially where food and mood collided. So, there you have it, my less than idealistic reasons for writing my book. Did I mention the money? Or the rage?

Why do you write? What really drives you?

34 Responses

  1. to be heard.

    ps. some of the nicest people i’ve ever met were crazy.

    pps. used to work psych emerg. in a previous life

  2. For me, the urge to write often follows a wave of rage. Expressing outrage on the page feels good.

  3. The challenging craft of it, the euphoric art of it and a promise I made to myself at fifteen—the year I became a foster kid. If I survived, if I could take that flying leap off my falling family tree and thrive, I would find a way to give that possibility away, to prick dead conscious and prod dulled minds until they remembered that kids don’t belong to anybody, that people are ends in their mother f$$king selves, not your servant or a way to keep your man or a manifestation of your bible thumping narcissistic dreams.

  4. Betsy, this is the best casual gorp reference I’ve seen in some time

  5. Having just lost time writing in one wip, I’ll answer in the context of that particular project: it’s fun. I lost time. That’s (nearly) as good as it gets.

  6. I am also “enjoying” writing about a difficult time in my life. I don’t have journals, but I do have e-mail archives, which I’ve been mining for topics, emotions, and significant events. Like you, I love figuring out how to piece it all together. It’s a challenge, but I find it invigorating.

  7. to make even 🙂

  8. To be remembered.

    When I die, I’m going to donate my body to a nearby university so future doctors can do whatever they do with cadavers. I hope they learn more than I did when I had to dissect that poor little frog in high school biology class.

    After they’re finished, I’ll be cremated and scattered to the wind.

    I’m hoping that a few of my books will linger in libraries after I’m gone so every once in a while someone will notice notice my name.

  9. Originally? Everyone wanted a memoir from me and I set out to give them what they wanted. It’s still not written. It sits a third of the way done on my hard drive.

    It did however plant a seed; instead of writing my angst, pain, abuse on a page in front of me, I could simply develop a character and write horror. I’ve got a fountain full of ideas and experience to fill enough pages.

    I find it far easier to delve into the depths from a fiction point of view than a personal one. The thing is, people who know me – have no idea how easily I write ugly and horrifying. (Hugs)Indigo

  10. Everyday, writing saves my life.

  11. This here is my thesis topic, Betsy, based originally on a quote from William Gaddis’s novella, Agape Agape.

    Gaddis’s protagonist, an old man grumbling about the book he never managed to write says, ‘the best writing worth reading comes like suicide from outrage and revenge.’

    Margaret Atwood cites some 72 reasons for writing, but this one will always be the most persuasive to me.

  12. I write because I’ve finally given myself permission to be real.

  13. I write because I’m even shittier at everything else. If someone paid me to jerk off, I’d never perpetrate another paragraph.

    • Try brokestraightboys.com. From what you described in a previous thread (which I’ll never forget), you’d be perfect.

      • Sadly, I’m a better candidate for brokeguyswholooklikeabaldJonLovitz.com.

        I don’t wanna get all heteronormative or anything, but I think it’s hard to argue against the superiority of straight women by at least one measure: they really know how to settle. Trained from birth, thank God.

  14. Oh, August, “at auction”

  15. I write to re-create the best reading experience I ever had, which was when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger and bored out of my mind (I don’t drink beer so that isolated me, socially, from my fellow PCVs and you can’t get a decent martini in the Sahara) and the Presbyterian missionary’s wife gave me a House and Gardens Crafts catalogue for Winter 1980 and I read, re-read, re-re-read that catalog for two years. Still my favorite life-saving reading experience EVER. I liked all the little pictures and the short stories about all the happiness that a crewel-stitch picture of a unicorn will bring your family.

    These days I am indexing 20 years’ worth of first person narratives of the ETO by WWII vets for the Maryland Military Historical Society for the 29th Division, comprising the 115th, the 116th, and the 175th Infantry — these were the guys who went in on Omaha Beach on D-Day and D-Day+1. So lately, I also write for these guys.

    I save my rage for face to face confrontations. If you park your damn Hummer in a fire lane at the local shopping center that’ll be me screaming at you that someone with your fat ass shouldn’t be worried about saving herself from a long walk to TJ Maxx.

  16. Because I cannot NOT write…

  17. Nice post, Betsy. And a good question.
    I used to try and convince myself that I wrote because I *need* to, because the voices won’t shut off, because my muse is demanding. But in reality, my muse is temperamental, and I don’t hear the voices many writers talk about. I write because it’s the most fun way for me to use up some of this pent-up creative energy – and because it’s the most fun way to get away with a lie 🙂

  18. I just finished reading Food and Loathing yesterday. It is reassuring to hear about your journals and notes; I was floored by many things about your story, including all the details of the therapy conversations, and observations about people. I hope Mizner has since retired. I like the word “staccato” too.

    As for why I write… cheap therapy.

  19. I write because I’m tongue-tied and inarticulate in public. People get the impression I’m not very bright. Writing is my only way of saying I’m smarter than you think.

    • I’m a bit like that too. Only in my case I get overwhelmed by ideas that seem half-glimpsed but crucially important. While I’m wrestling with them I feel inarticulate, but after a while I start to make something of them. Writing novels is my way of enjoying this peculiar ideas-dump my brain does to me – and once I’ve made a story out of them, I can finally explain to other people why an idea seems to matter so much.

  20. I write because I feel like shit when I don’t. Not that I don’t feel like shit when I do write sometimes but it is a different, more productive kind of feeling like shit. Also if I had to stay in the real world all the time it might kill me- in that way I write for the same reason that I read so much.

  21. I write because there are stories inside my head that swirl round and round and get in the way of things if I don’t let them out.

  22. Good question…I’m not quite sure why I write, but it might be connected to what MO said above.

  23. Betsy, I’m glad someone is willing to go there. Most people are not able to articulate their pain. Mental illness is a lonely place. Knowing others have been there and lived to tell about it can make such a difference in someone’s recovery. Or help a family member to understand better. Or a bigger audience. No matter what the motivation to write is the side effect is compassion. That’s more than ok in my book. I am ashamed to say I’m not ready to go there either, yet. But I do respect the process even if I hide in fiction.

    Honest truth, I don’t know exactly why I write. I love capturing life using just the right words. Finding clarity and being able to manipulate someone’s feelings is a rush. I can expose what is ugly and inject mercy. I suppose when so much of the day is spent within the confines of society, it’s kind of intoxicating.

  24. Am I the only one who had to look up gorp?

  25. I write because I love the intense concentration, the altered state of consciousness I enter when I’m working on something. Writing is the only thing I do that makes time disappear.

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