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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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I’m sad but I’m laughing I’m brave but I’m chickenshit

While I was in Paris, I stayed at a hotel that used to be a monastery and it still had monastic amenities. In other words, no television, no radio, no minibar. There wasn’t even a clock in the room, just the ringing of the church bells next door.  On top of this,  I do not have an international cell phone. So without any of the usual methods by which to measure my self worth: scale, blog stats, emails, phone calls, or any of the usual distractions: LA Law, diet coke, tropical flavored jelly beans, I did the only thing left for me to do: write. I brought two books and a notebook in which I have been writing a book for three years on and off. I read both books and I filled nearly forty pages in my notebook. My hand ached, ink splats appeared on my hands and on my shirt, and the pad from pressing too hard appeared on my middle finger, a badge of something.

It was an amazing week to go without all the usual distractions. I wrote all morning and long into the night. As they say of babies just beginning to nurse, I latched on. I wrote every chance I could get, and the more I wrote, the more ideas came to me, so much so that I even took notes for future scenes and observations to better flesh out. Long before cell phones and computers, etc. I was able to find myriad distractions so I’m not blaming technology. I’m just noticing what a week away proved.

What are your biggest distractions from writing? Besides reading scintillating blogs?

39 Responses

  1. It’s easier if I just tell you what isn’t: Exercise.

  2. I’m with Shanna. Although you’d know it by looking at me, I wouldn’t have to tell you.

    My mind is my biggest distraction. Even with nothing else to do and a quiet place to write, I still sometimes can’t get my mind to stop working on fifty different problems and stories and stay focused on one subject.

    I’d like to see a chart sometimes on the astrological sign of different writers. I ponder whether Geminis (me) have more trouble staying focused than, say Sagis who are more earthbound. Anybody know of any studies? (No, I’m not a zodiac follower, but I do find it an intriguing subject)

  3. Cherubs distract me. And Paris. Learning new dances. Industrial-nature type design. Scarves and boots. Singers whose voices I like but whose lyrics not so much but kind of sometimes even though they’re a bit silly. Painting. Swimming. Wine. Beeswax candles. Sharpies. Post-Its. Bees. Barometric pressure. Museum catalogs. Comedians with ginger hair. Singers with ginger hair. Pearl jewelry. Sneakers. Pillows. Mangoes. Cats. Ants. Bicycles. The ocean. Architecture. Plants. Synchronicities. Ice hotels. Ping-Pong. Journals. Magazines. Books. Global warming. Music. Lavender soap.

    What it all comes down to
    Is that everything’s gonna be quite alright.
    I’ve got one hand in my pocket
    And the other one is flicking a cigarette
    –I mean pen.

  4. Writing distracts me from writing. Blog posts, emails, appointments, post-its, grocery lists, order forms, lipstick on the mirror, exposure settings written with a sharpie across my forearm …

  5. Bobbye, have you tried meditating? Even a brief meditation (15 minutes or so) can help calm monkey mind.

    This is the third place I’ve seen astrology mentioned today. I’m not supposed to know embarrassing stuff like this but I do. Okay, Astrology 101: Geminis have reputations for being interested in a lot of different things. It’s an air sign, which has to do with thinking or maybe indigestion, I can’t remember, one or the other. Geminis are also known as good communicators and writers.

    Sagittariuses are almost always right about everything that matters. It’s REALLY annoying. (Just kidding, mostly.) They are fire signs, intuitive, wise, fair, good at identifying patterns, funny, a bit impatient. A Sagittarius pal fits this description pretty closely. And he’s a brilliant writer and treasured friend.

    Of course I probably think this because I am a Pisces/Aries cusp and we love Sagittariuses, though maybe not enough to spell the word correctly.

    By the way, Alanis Morrissette is also a Gemini. Don’t know much else about her, except that she looks great naked on a subway.

  6. Thoughts about a four-day romance I had with a handsome, smart, funny guy on a remote island and who I’d really love to see again. Sigh.

  7. I’m raising four children. That’s my chief distraction. The internet is also a biggie.

    BTW, I broke a long writer-block at a monastery as well. I sat down and wrote 35 pages that weekend and all the while I kept telling myself, “I didn’t want to do this.” There’s something about monasteries.

  8. The Internet is for me. Blogging and keeping up with everyone so I have to really set limits.

  9. International moves. Single parenting. Roofing contractors. But I’m writing anyway so am very hopeful everything’s gonna be fine fine fine.

  10. Technology and friends

  11. “What are your biggest distractions from writing?”

    The community and domestic services I perform to atone for my myriad sins.

  12. George Clooney

    new posting at http://www.elijahrising.com ….today is Mahalia Jackson’s birthday….listen and love

  13. I second glasseye: what distracts me from writing my current big project is all the other writing. Or rather, reading and writing. Reading posts at all sorts of blogs and writing comments; reading online news stories and posting comments; writing tweets; reading friends’ updates on Facebook and making comments (though this falls pretty far down the list); writing all sorts of stuff in my journal; writing Netflix comments on movies; reading books, then trying to write short but genuine reviews for a Facebook app called Visual Bookshelf; copying quotations from books, movies, etc., into my journal; reading and writing emails; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera (as the King of Siam was fond of saying).

  14. i have a buttload of resistance to settling down to write, and once I do, to staying put…and it’s gotten worse instead of better the longer I’ve been at it, the more skilled I’ve become, just makes the stakes feel higher and the process all the more daunting. As busy as my life seems with three kids and aging-not-so-gracefully parents and a myriad of communal commitments, i generate most of the obstacles to my writing.

  15. The thing that stands out for me in this post is the opposite of your question; not distraction but preparation. You came prepared. You brought three things, and it seems like you needed them all. They must have been the right things.

    Writing that novel?

  16. My young daughter is in transition from nap time to cranky wakefulness. The guitar sitting in the corner is aching to be played. Googling something in the name of research and wandering all over the internet. Going for a walk with the dog and meeting an old friend. My friend is in her mid 60’s but doesn’t look a day under 75. She’s diabetic and has cancer, refusing treatment against the advice of all her health care providers. Ann (not her real name) is less concerned about dying than she is of who will take care of her rambunctious young Black Lab when she’s gone. She wants to talk. Writing can wait.

    I like your blog. It’s like finding a lost coffee shop along a busy street on a night that feels as cold and damp as a cave. The clientele play chess, read, recite poetry or sit and ruminate while old Bolsheviks nod in agreement when hip hop poets discuss the relevance of Iggy Pop. It’s a world away from the high speed corridor just on the other side of that door. Thank you.

    • YES, this. Echoing thanks!

      “I like your blog. It’s like finding a lost coffee shop along a busy street on a night that feels as cold and damp as a cave. The clientele play chess, read, recite poetry or sit and ruminate while old Bolsheviks nod in agreement when hip hop poets discuss the relevance of Iggy Pop. It’s a world away from the high speed corridor just on the other side of that door. Thank you.I like your blog. It’s like finding a lost coffee shop along a busy street on a night that feels as cold and damp as a cave. The clientele play chess, read, recite poetry or sit and ruminate while old Bolsheviks nod in agreement when hip hop poets discuss the relevance of Iggy Pop. It’s a world away from the high speed corridor just on the other side of that door. Thank you.”

    • I like this too. I wish we were all really in a coffee shop together sometimes. But I wonder too if we’d be able to talk like this if we were…

  17. “Being a good writer is 3% talent,97% not being distracted by the internet.”

    I doubt the first part is true,but I put this quote as my blog header to remind myself – it’s not working.

  18. This post reminds me of what I was before the internet, before I moved into the ashram, before I committed my life to Krishna, before I met my husband, before I grew older than I ever dreamed I’d be: a young woman exploring, searching for God, heroin, a good meal, a one-night stand, true love, my place in the world and how I would leave my stamp upon it; working in the skeeviest strip joints in Boston’s Combat Zone because it gave me the flexibility to take time off whenever I needed to, as well as the opportunity to talk to men and women, day after day, learning what sort of imperative they were trying to fulfill by getting naked for money or by watching others do so; writing during breaks in the dressing room as the dancers changed costumes, snorted coke, fought with each other or made out with each other; writing, on my days off, at in the Trident Bookstore and Cafe on Newberry Street, drinking cappuccino and smoking bidi cigarettes, doing the writing exercises in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, fervidly reading Henry Miller, never imagining myself as a published writer, only knowing that I had to write, to take note, literally and figuratively, of the beauty and confusion and desolation of what I went through and what went through me, because I knew that it would all be gone in short order, that I would be gone in short order, and because I knew—knew, I tell you!—that there was nobody else who recognized and claimed the world for her own as I do.

    My life is nothing but distraction. My daily duties distract me from writing, and writing distracts me from the other things I have to do. Yes, I’m finally doing some writing. About time, I would say.

  19. Movies, sex, sleeping pills.

    • In that order?

      • Good question …

        Reverse order I think.

        Sleep is easy, effortless with pills.
        Sex is generally good but requires effort.
        Movies are available but often dull, disappointing.

        And then there are the half hours and hours spent having conversations with people who aren’t really there. To whom I’ll never really say what I want to say.

  20. That stream of consciousness shit talk that tells me To give up is the current I have to swim against to get anything done.

    Glad you had that much deserved time.

    See, I can say that for you.

  21. Blogs, travel plans, work emails, my closet (that always need sorting), unpaid bills, the dogs, my cell phone. Babblefish: I go on there to translate something and then go into a distraction spiral (how do you tell someone you like their hat in Swahili?)

  22. Life…

  23. That big shiny golden eye in the sky that has a hypnotizing way of looking just like me, telling me how great I am and what the future looks like. I get so dreamy I don’t get much done. And, scintillating blogs. But those can also be an inspiration at times. And by inspiration I mean breath fire in jealousy. Works for me. Brings me right back down to earth. Glad your back.

  24. Bravo TV. It’s ruining my life. I can’t stop watching it. Housewives, Jackie Warner, Top Chef – all day, every day. It just leaves me with the grossest feeling when I’m done (done being relative)…but yet, there’s always someone meaner, fatter, lazier, and crazier than me on that channel. That part I like.

  25. Real distractions (though the word seems too slight) Obstacles then: uncertainty, fear of hurting family, facebook ( I know… ).

  26. Do you really watch LA Law? It’s all about Hung and Californication over here.

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