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If I Listened Long Enough to You

This morning at around 8:30, the phone rang. I answered it. A breathless woman was on the line, “I’ve just written something, what should I do?”

“Um, what have you written?”

“I don’t know,” she nearly screamed back, “I just wrote it.”

Normally, I would have already gotten rid of this call, but the sheer insanity of it was perversely attractive to me. For a moment, I thought it might be my friend Gina playing a practical joke on me. But before I could say anything, the caller cried, “Can you help me?” as if she were in need of medical attention.

Again I tried, “Well, I need to know what you’ve written.”

“And then I should call you?”

“Yes,”  I said,” when you’ve got something finished.”

Now, she calmed down considerably and thanked me profusely. “I see, I see, okay, thank you for your time.”

What does this say besides a) I need a help  b) Our  assistant needs to get in earlier  c) There is something newborn about writing

31 Responses

  1. Dude, just because a phone is ringing doesn’t mean you have to answer it. The phone is there for your convenience, not vice versa. Is there some tiny part of you that can’t shake the notion that it might be the next WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOUR EXPECTING come a callin’? Newsflash–it’s not. It’s never the Publisher’s Clearing House. Never. Two words for you: voice mail. xoxo

    • I love when this sort of thing happens. It’s always risky, picking up the phone*, but Betsy got lucky. Or maybe she just picked up unconsciously. To my mind, it *is* a bit like winning the sweepstakes. Cool post.

      * I almost never do; maybe that’s why my life has become so predictable.

    • Shanna, you are SO RIGHT! In recent years I’ve learned, anyone who CALLS YOU, or knocks on YOUR DOOR if you didn’t call a repairman, — WANTS SOMETHING THAT IS GOOD (BENEFICIAL, PROFITABLE) for THEM and BAD FOR YOU. (If it was good for YOU, you’d be callin’ THEM!)

      I don’t even have a phone right now, and never realized until living without one, what a large amount of Time-suckage it used to create in my day (much of that, MY FAULT!). Not having it is like turning off a running-water tap and stop wasting the water / time. (It’s been like an epiphany!!)

  2. I feel perhaps there should be a hot line for these types of calls. There is something very newborn about writing and I think I would find it helpful to be able to call a number and have someone on the other end remain calm about it.

  3. It was a gift blog post from God. What was being born, I think, was her. A good midwife is always on call.

  4. Answering machines with delete buttons are made for these types of calls.
    Maybe I’m a grouch, but someone would have to be more interesting than that for me to find them perversely attractive.
    As for the hot line idea- isn’t that what friends are for?

  5. Love the photo of Mia in Rosemary’s Baby, that scene in particular, when she thinks all will be well, that the Good Doctor will save her from her demonic husband and liver eating, garlic smelling annoying as Hell neighbors, and her raw fear eases, which is, of course, our clue that it’s all a ruse and she’s screwed every which way til Sunday.

    I suspect your caller is also screwed, because honey, while it’s not all that abnormal to make a call to a stranger, asking for help, it’s just short of batshit crazy to not know what you’ve written.

    Real writers know, every step of the way, it’s crap. See, we would have called, all breathless and panicked and said, “Dear God, I’ve written a pile of crap! What should I do?” And you would reply, “Eat raw liver and call Lucifer. I can’t help you.”

    Happy New Year, Betsy. 🙂

  6. I’m with c) There is something newborn about writing, and then a) I need a help (sic), and b) can be left out because your assistant might have hung up on a perverse pleasure (bad girl.) Besides this, I think it’s kind of freaky to expose yourself to the world while thinking you were the only person that thought whatever it is you’re thinking and so it’s very natural to freak-out and make a call to someone that might help you put it all into perspective, hopefully. But yeah, finish it. Can’t sell half-cooked pancakes. Time-tested practices say most people don’t want to eat them. (And, now, I must, slowly, cautiously, hang up the phone, and know I am not completely moon-mush.)

  7. I can no longer read your posts while I’m trying to write. Not only do I continue to ponder what you’ve written (always a brainload), but then I also endure hours of humming whatever damn song is referenced in your title.

    My characters can’t go on belting out random song lyrics.

    Stop it. Just stop.

    And I’d suggest you stop answering your phone, too.

  8. Can I call you too?

  9. There is something inherently deranged about writing. I like you even more than I already did for not hanging up.

  10. Lucky person to have heard your voice. I’m sure she’s better because of it. I got my former agent because she happened to answer the phone. I had just called for a quick question about who to submit my project to. Turns out, she was very interested in it. But those were my early days. Now I never call. Maybe it’s time to start again!

  11. “There is something newborn about writing” ❤

  12. Sorry, Betsy, but it was early and I was thinking about……..won’t do it again, promise…..now where the hell did the nurse put my coffee….

  13. Newborn and frantic. Some of it might need medical attention. I’m always afraid I’m going to drop it on its head even though I know it usually bounces.

  14. All of the above. I’m writhing for the poor woman. The suddenly put on the spot because nobody (important) was really going to answer and I choked phone call. Yikes. You were very kind.

  15. Kind of sounds like the beginning of an interesting thriller.

    • I agree. There might be a book here if the process is followed to its conclusion. It’s certainly a better opening than: It was a dark and stormy night.

  16. Not knowing what you’re going to write next or even, in that case, what you HAVE ALREADY written, is both the hardest thing and the easiest thing about Writing.

  17. I am also perversely attracted to occasional/random insanity. It’s a gift from the gods.

  18. This was much more wonderful when I thought it was your home phone. Which makes me…something.

  19. I vote for something newborn. I know I’ve felt that way.

    I’m with Sherry on the lyrics. They stick with me all day if I recognize them, which I usually do, being a music whore. Some of them remind me of the day I first heard the song, like this one, second best to Tim Hardin: a country rock band called Hearts and Flowers, some (flower) pot-filled club in San Francisco and all I wanted to do was have them play that song over and over and over.

  20. This doesn’t feel so much like a cold call as a desperate plea for help: like she just fell into it, accidentaly picked up a pen, and was shocked to see a spiral notebook filled with text a day or two later. Like finding a massive new mole on your nose in the morning: the writing just happened to her. She collided with it, unavoidably, and perhaps to her regret. So what else could she do? She tried 9-1-1 and they told her to get a literary agent on the line, stat!

    • God, you’re so right. I was sick as a dog when I came out of my first writing jag. I came to my senses 40,000 words later wondering what the hell just happened. This writer was clearly in need of emergency help.

      I’m afraid she’s got The Plague now. It’s all over.

  21. “I’ve just written something, what should I do?”

    I thought the answer to that was, “Spell-check.”

  22. You know how doctors always worry when they’re flying commercial that someone might frantically demand mid-flight, “Is there a doctor on the plane?!” Well. I half-wish someone would plead mid-flight for “someone who can write worth a damn.” I would then slowly make my way to said passenger and calm her with my delightful charm and mastery of iambic pentameter.

  23. Not sure how to react to the phone call, but do know how it feels to write fiction the first time. When I wrote my first novel, I remember feeling like I’d fallen in love, would hug the pages to myself, staring off into space. My late husband looked at me like maybe I’d gone round the bend.

    Of course, the first one was crap…but the following novels never really could compare to the incredible feeling of discovering some mysterious force only I knew about!

  24. My newborn keeps me up all night, produces a lot of shit, sometimes makes me laugh, and often seems impossible. So, yeah, quite a lot like me as a writer, then.

  25. I totally relate. I always tell everyone about the creative child I just birthed. Most people don’t understand the excitement. Only I know that it’s a miracle.

  26. […] Lerner If I Listened Long Enough to You Juicy storytelling. Breathless, even. Can you relate to this […]

  27. Oh, I go with newborn! There was something completely without guile in that phone call. Like a baby when they start taking those first todding steps and they get that look: “Oh my God, why didn’t anyone TELL me I could do this?” And they’re off…!!!

    (Clearly she didn’t know or care if she was going about things in an odd manor. Fuck YEAH, I JUST WROTE SOMETHING!” I’m smellin’ myself today, baby.

    We should all be so lucky to get that frantic/excited about something every once in a while. Good for the soul. 😉

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