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    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die

My husband has been reading the Saul Bellow letters. Over the last few days, he read out parts to me. I am a huge Bellow fan and plan to read the letters myself. Part of me wants to tell him to stop, don’t ruin it for me. But I don’t. I love hearing the riffs and moments that catch John’s eye. I think the theme is the same: space. How much you allow yourself as a writer.

I saw an exhibit over the weekend by a young artist called Mark Bradford. I felt an immediate kinship with paintings. As I made my way through the exhibit, I learned that his mother had a beauty salon and he learned much there about making hair beautiful and the slow processes involved. Many of his works are collages that employ permanent paper from the salon. People try to call his work collage. He says they are paintings without using paint. He also talked about space and growing into larger canvases, about being nervous at first to take up too much space. At the end of the exhibit, his paintings took up entire walls and could barely contain their energy, the power of the idea, the painstaking execution.

How much space do you take up, your work?

37 Responses

  1. I take up 3/8 of an inch. Maybe 1/16. But that equates to 140 percent of my total being. I suck at measuring up to anything. And I never could do math.

  2. my best writing comes with flying into space, a la On The Road, the furious typing…but to allow myself to do that is difficult, for some reason I cannot completely unearth that infuriates me. ‘it’s just WORDS!’ i tell myself. ‘what the hell is your problem!’

  3. My work takes up the precise amount of space it requires.

  4. When I read your post, the part that grabbed me was your husband’s reading aloud to you and your tiny bit of annoyance because of it. Two emotions slammed into me at the same time–enormous jealousy and deep sadness. You see, my husband’s brilliant mind is slowly being extinguished by early onset alzheimer’s. We’ve given away the hundreds of books that used to line the walls of his office–the ones from which he used to read aloud to me while I rolled my eyes because I had things of my own to do, more important things. He doesn’t read anymore. Not to himself. Not to me. Having those books around made him more frustrated, so they had to go. I would give anything if he could read to me again. This time I’d listen.

    I know this doesn’t answer your question. I can’t even remember what it was. Space, I think. How much my work takes up. Not much these days.

  5. Half a file cabinet. While doing some deep cleaning this weekend, I stumbled upon two screenplays, one of which I first wrote as a novel, and a second novel in progress plus a couple of files of notes on a future historical novel–things put on hold when I became a working reporter–getting paid a few sheckles to write. Feels like a goldmine now that I am in my dotage (happily retired).

    Betsy, rumor has it that you and Erin Hosier have co-written a new book on writing. Confirm?

  6. I felt jealousy, too. But only because my husband would never read such a thing.

    Bonnie, I’m sorry you and your family are having to go through this. There are no words.

  7. Way too much space for its own good. My work spreads itself across the room and house sometimes, but I always know where to find it.

    It all depends on how far I threw it.

  8. I take up a just that little bit more space than I would like – t’was ever thus…

    My work? – depends on the day and whether the internet is down.

  9. 3.5 acres, and when people buy things, more.

  10. You could write a novel from this painting. Or Delillo could. Radford’s work reminds me of Romare Bearden’s, my all-time favorite painter. I just spent 30 minutes trying to paste in an image of Bearden’s “Uptown Looking Downtown” because it reminds me so much of this painting. I love that he learned he transformed his experiences at the beauty salon into making art. Makes perfect sense really. I’d like to use my space the way Radford does (and Bearden did), capture chaos on the page. Associative incongruity.

  11. I’m only trying to fill my own footprints.

  12. My largest space is inside my head, and my smallest are my laptop and a tiny desk in the corner of the dining room.

    I would hate to have the space in my head shrink to nothingness. Still, I’d have plenty to share for someone like Bonnie’s husband if I could.

  13. I try to take up as much space as I can. I try not to let much dictate to me about what I write — what kind of writing, word counts, what kind of story. It’s all about what I’m into at the moment. Writing isn’t a business that pays well enough for me not to enjoy it. To me, it’s all: Why do it if I don’t get to have fun?

  14. Messy mind, messy desk, research books all over the house. But my words on the page are spare and tidy.

  15. I don’t know. It grows to fill the space. It shrivels when unused. It is in my head so vast. And in reality nowhere near so. It should be more.

  16. I don’t know. It grows to fill the space. It shrivels when unused. It is in my head so vast. And in reality nowhere near so. It should be more.

  17. Less than 400 pages. I think you need a REALLY good reason to go longer than that. But strangely I think you need an equally good justification for doing a novel that is under 200…

  18. Revising is taking me across the 400 page border into uncomfortable questionable space of saying too much more than is necessary beyond a tease and into tiresome excess. At least that is my fear. I start brief and expand.

  19. Almost nothing. I was inspired by a scene in the play “Quills,” wherein they remove all the Marquis de Sade’s writing tools and he responds by using his feces on the wall to express himself.

  20. My work is messy and all over the place, and then I go back with a fine tune comb and make connections.

  21. I’ve staked out a room of my own in two houses and somehow the spacious shelves and organized drawers end up full of everyone else’s crap. I’m trying hard to turn it all into permanent papers.

  22. Betsy, You make me want to search for my Best of the Bread CD! But regarding space…just a notebook on my lap and a pen in my hand.

  23. I have 929 files in the folder and subfolders for my WIP. It’s no wonder it keeps me awake.

    jm, isn’t Best of Bread an oxymoron? πŸ™‚

  24. People reading to each other is loverly (and, yes, sometimes annoying). Wonderful post and question, thank you!

    When I become brave enough to do what I dream about doing I suppose I’ll discover an answer. For now, bigger than a breadbox, certainly.

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