• Bridge Ladies

    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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Having My Baby

My husband sold his first novel last month. When we were just out of college, we’d meet on Friday nights, go for dinner at the Second Avenue Deli, go to the St. Marks Poetry Workshop, and then spend hours at the Cloisters Cafe talking poetry, love, life. I smoked Marlboro Lights. He smoked Parliaments. We didn’t become romantically involved until much later, but we cemented a friendship that was fueled in part by a belief in the other as a writer. Neither of us chose the path of a writer’s life. We’ve both worked full time in publishing for more than 25 years and have done all our writing on weekends, nights, or pre-dawn. When we had our daughter, we spelled each other for long weekend days so the other could write. We understood the desire to be alone. It’s more than a desire. It’s a necessity, an imperative.

How much time do you spend alone, need to spend alone? Is there someone in your life you believes in you as a writer? How are we all going to find the boat and row home?

31 Responses

  1. I do need to spend most of my time alone. It seems like other people create static, and it’s annoying when you’re trying to hone in the world. As a card-carrying self-loather, I can’t altogether trust someone who says he believes in me, but I can’t altogether trust someone who doesn’t. I don’t know what that means.

  2. I never allowed myself real writing time until my husband and I divorced. His nights with the kids gave me opportunity with no excuse. And my written words eased my loneliness.

    I’m rowing away mightily now, but I’m laboring in a single scull. It’s good. My mother and my two nearly grown sons believe in me. So I figure I’ll sell at least three copies of my first book.

  3. i need at least an hour a day alone. there have been days when i don’t get it and i end up sounding like the crazy mom from Carrie.

    i blame it on being an only child until age 9. i usually take my hour at work and linger many minutes in my coffee shop that is conveniently connected to my most favorite independent bookstore in the whole wide world. (it’s the Carmichael Books on the corner of Longest Ave and Bardstown Rd if you’re ever passing through Louisville.)

    my husband is my best fan and never questions the time i take to write. he sits beside me in the evenings while I post comments on blogs or write on my own. he takes care of breakfast for the kids when i am cutting it close to a deadline. he doesn’t bat an eye when i leave for a weekend to lock myself in a room away from home with my laptop and little else.

    even better, he’s not much of a reader, so he only reads what i ask him to read and always says, “i think it sounds great.”

    he does keep asking me, “when you going to finish that book so i can quit my job?” i don’t have the heart to tell him that my writing probably won’t deliver the life of luxury he’s got in mind.

    • >my writing probably won’t deliver the life of luxury he’s got in mind.<

      Then again, maybe it will.

      Your husband sounds like a real luxury.

  4. We’re not all gonna find the boat and row home; some of us will spend years without pause bent over the oars going in circles, while others drift into the harbor in weekends and nights and pre-dawn.

  5. Okay, call me a sap, but Betsy, I like your history with Mister Betsy. Someday you have to share how you went from friends to spouses.

    I have to be alone part of each day or I’m homicidal. When my daughters are home, it’s all daughters, all the time, so I hole up in my office in the wee hours after they’ve gone to sleep until I pass out on the keyboard and wake up 30 minutes later, then stumble to bed, only to be woken up in a few hours for more Daughter Time.

    My husband, who is an engineer and only reads golf magazines and newspapers, is always supportive. He likes that I’m happy, and he loves when I sell something – not so much because of money, although let’s be honest, who isn’t happy about money? – but because it validates me, yet again. Then he gets sex and we’re all so happy, it’s nauseating.

    Rinse and repeat.

  6. Congrats to the old man. Name? Title?

    My wife supports me but not as much as she thinks she does. You know what I mean? Course Saturday soccer games, grocery shopping, laundry, cooking all make me feel guilty, so I have plenty of days where I am not as selfish as my writing needs me to be. But who could be that selfish and have a happy marriage and family, too?

  7. There’s a boat? Where and what is home?

  8. When I go on dates and I’m not sure whether I like the guy or not, my test is always, “Would I rather be here on this date or at home alone, reading or writing?” Unfortunately, I haven’t found anyone in the past three years who holds my attention more than my books do. Maybe this bodes extremely badly for my love life… but it probably bodes well for my life as a writer.

  9. I’m so happy for your husband, Betsy. Major triumph.

    My husband and I are CONSTANTLY together. We have a bizarre relationship: love/hate, mostly love, but of a predominantly platonic variety. I don’t get much alone time unless I stay up a few hours after he goes to bed, but that’s only because I don’t focus the way I should during daylight hours. He’d leave me alone if I wanted to be.

    He loves when I write, loves when other people read what I write, cooks when I’m busy and washes the dishes afterward. I’m more on top of the laundry than he is, though.

    I’m a bit better at craft than he is, but he’s naturally funnier, wittier, more fluent. He’s not hung up on sounding literary the way I sometimes am. He writes almost every day, whenever he has a free moment. Drives me nuts! I used to get jealous of his creative focus. Now I’ve realized that you can’t beat ’em—you MUST join ’em. He doesn’t let anything get in his way, and he’s much more regulated in his habits than I am. He almost never goes on Facebook, bless his heart.

  10. I need to be alone but not too much, and I’ll make the call, thank you. Just last night I was caught up in a deep discussion about pursuing *meaningful* activities and callings. I think a space exists between self-indulgence and being a responsible member of society (and a few other institutions), but it isn’t easy to find.

  11. My husband. He’s a pilot so flew me all over the country to promote my novels.

  12. I’ve always had friends who believe that I’m a writer. Now I have a husband who shows up at poetry readings and tells me whether I get poet voice and makes me cut the bad lines out of my poems.

  13. There is a beautiful nostalgia and some sense of optimism to this post that I absolutely love. It is wonderful to have someone in our life who believes.

  14. 1a. Not enough.

    1b. More.

    2. Yes.

    3. I don’t know how you all are going to do it, but I’m not looking for the boat, I’m swimming. And I am not drowning, I am waving.

  15. My husband and I are good at having our own space while we’re in the same physical space. I write, he watches TV or works, and somehow, it just works for us. Congrats to your husband!

  16. My husband comes to all my readings even though I tell him, “You don’t have to do this. It’s got to be so boring.” When I glance out in the audience mid-passage, he has not drifted off. He is staring back at me like I’m a piece of lemon meringue pie and he hasn’t eaten for weeks.

  17. I prefer my own society….. Emily Dickinson

    (I LOST a world the other day.
    Has anybody found?
    You ’ll know it by the row of stars
    Around its forehead bound.

    A rich man might not notice it;
    Yet to my frugal eye
    Of more esteem than ducats.
    Oh, find it, sir, for me!

  18. My first girlfriend believed in my writing and kicked me out of our little lovenest so I could go out and see the world. I traveled for years and would see her mostly in my dreams. She married a man who could keep the roof above her head repaired and we exchanged letters and I sent her postcards from whatever country I was in. She poured her heart out to me and I told her stories that made her smile or cry. Her husband told her to stop this nonsense and I began sending my tales and thoughts to a different address. She had children, became a Christian and cut off all contact. She still guides me often when I write.

    The second woman I loved gave me nothing but praise, but you know, that just didn’t work out. I started writing only first drafts, BOOM, take it or leave it. Some good, some bad. I gave readings and learned I should know how to pronounce some of the ten dollar words I was showing off with in my stories.

    My wife is my harshest critic. Sometimes it tips a fragile balance in a marriage to ask for an honest opinion, but she doesn’t sugarcoat anything and, this I grudgingly admit, her advice often makes my work better. I married the right woman.

    My mother believed in me with all her heart and soul and delighted in seeing my words in print.

    My daughter wants me to stop writing and play. I’ll take time alone when I can get it.

  19. We met in the editorial library of the LAT. I was living in a friend’s spare room, he on a boat. We both need large chunks of time alone. He is my first reader and my best friend, the only one who has always supported me and in every way. He taught me to sail and he built the boat.

  20. I need to be alone, preferably for hours a day. But I like having family as well. Now that I have both, I’m getting a lot more work done.

    I’m lucky in my husband as well, though he’s a physicist, and we met later in life. He tells me how good I am, tells me I need to put in the hours, and helps me clear those hours. He is also well-read, has a very finely tuned shit-detector, and can proofread like a pro.

    I only wish we had met young enough to talk for hours at the Cloisters Cafe! I did that with a biologist.

  21. i need a couple of hours to myself every day and that’s when i write. i came to writing after having kids so i’ve never had large chunks of writing time–fragmented works for me because it has to. occasionally, i have a weekend blitz and that’s fun but exhausting.

    my husband understands my alone time requirements and has learned to accommodate it. he owes me for the enormous amounts of travel time with his previous job! he’s enthusiastic about my writing and listens to me read aloud, over and over again. he’s not a writer but definitely reads a lot, so his perspective is great, most of the time.

    as for the boat, i want a big ass houseboat with a BBQ chained to the railings, and a hot tub on the deck because i’m a classy lady. i’m crossing the styx with a steak, medium-well.

  22. Chase the Dog Star
    Over the sea
    Home where my true love is waiting for me
    Rope the south wind
    Canvas the stars
    Harness the moonlight
    So she can safely go
    Round the Cape Horn to Valparaiso
    Red the port light
    Starboard the green
    How will she know of the devils I’ve seen
    Cross in the sky, star of the sea
    Under the moonlight, there she can safely go
    Round the Cape Horn to Valparaiso

    And every road I walked would take me down to the sea
    With every broken promise in my sack
    And every love would always send the ship of my heart
    Over the rolling sea

    If I should die
    And water’s my grave
    She’ll never know if I’m damned or I’m saved
    See the ghost fly over the sea
    Under the moonlight, there she can safely go
    Round the Cape Horn to Valparaiso

    – Sting

  23. How are we all going to find the boat and row home?

    when this happens and you listen to this song, you are so happy you live in this country no matter how hard we fight for or rights….case being go listen to the song at http://www.elijahrising.com and go out and vote now, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.

  24. To be alone, or not to be alone– that is the question. Ever since my days as a cub reporter right out of college, I learned to write anywhere. I can block out noise, even my husband’s favorite TV show. I am ashamed to confess, that even though I have been earning a living as a “writer” all my life, I have never, until now, written just for me.

    It was my mother who kept insisting that I write, even though the card board box where she stored my clippings, was overflowing. I finally realized what she meant about writing. Now my mother has dementia and does not know I have finally picked up the quill at the age of 67. She is 95. I have a goal of finishing my first thriller novel by her 96th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom.

  25. Congrats Mr. Betsy! I love that you ended up with my favorite of all the men in Food & Loathing: probably not a coincidence.

    I have a mentor who believes in me whose opinion I couldn’t possibly care more about as well as a couple of close book friends and of course my wonderful parents. Occasionally I even have myself- who is always the hardest to convince, no?

    I worry about getting married having little ones sometimes because I worry it will destroy my alone-time…I admire families who can make that balance work.

  26. I’ve been blessed with a sinecure at a strange Washington D.C. entity called the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA) for which I’ve written thousands of hard copy pieces at good pay from home for many years. The freedom it allows me to work on my own projects, especially as my experience increased and the time it took to write an article decreased, has been a Godsend.

    We have a kid. My wife’s belief in me is almost religious, but I don’t abuse it. We hand-off the little guy between us often. Compatibility is an important element to a relationship.

    All that said, early morning, late night, and whenever-possible sessions have been staples in the generation of my literature.

    The second greatest gift to my career after BNA was the long-ago floating of the Nike corporate motto: “Just do it!”

    Congratulations to the husband.

  27. One of the reasons I didn’t have kids, NEED/MUST HAVE my time alone — and not just to write. I LIKE being alone, enjoy my own company. If I had to spend every day all day with someone always…just shoot me. Seriously. Fortunately, my late husband worked full-time, I had time alone and even when I worked as a reporter/editor, I still have time alone. A widow now I would NEVER consider marrying again…love my life living alone.

  28. CONGRATS to your husband, Betsy.

    My husband and daughter are thoughtful and quietly shove food under the door.

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