• 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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I Went Down To The Chelsea Drugstore To Get Your Prescription Filled

Kids!  Great news! We made the top ten list of worst jobs according to Health Magazine. Writers place fourth on most likely to get depressed list.  Finally, they’re taking us seriously. Here are my top ten things I hate about writing:

 

1) Bed sores

2) The mind games

3) Can never keep enough Imodium on hand

4) The guilt

5) Having people tell you they have a story in them, too

6) The New Yorker

7) Hearing what people think

8. Night terrors

9) I’ll fuck you up, Colbert.

10) Other writers

What do you hate most about being a writer? Don’t hold back.

118 Responses

  1. What I hate most is trying to find an honest agent that believes in my YA paranormal romance…I just found out I wasted almost a year on an agency that is rated as “strongly do not recommend”… I can deal with about most anything else.

  2. 1. not being published
    2. reading other published writers and thinking, “that’s shit”
    3. reading other published writers and thinking, “my stuff is shit”
    4. elevator pitches
    5. waiting
    6. adverbs
    7. my obscene nail biting
    8. “what’s your platform?”
    9. the dash key (i never get it on the first try)
    10. not writing

  3. Knowing I’m probably making a terrible, terrible mistake by believing in myself.

    • Sorry, but I can’t let this one slide:

      I don’t know you, Beth, but I do know you’re not making a mistake. Because believing in yourself isn’t one. Ever. Period.

    • you’ve got it backward, the terrible mistake is NOT believing in yourself.

    • Agree with Sarah and Amyg–if you don’t believe in you, how will you convince anyone else?

    • No you are not I agree with Sarah W. and amyg and spring chicken

    • I disagree Beth. Believing in yourself is the key to fully believing in ANYTHING else. Keep believing.

    • Beth,

      I think that people with cast-iron, unfounded self-belief generally make for terrible writers (lacking emotional intelligence, empathy, perspective, the ability to see failure and tragedy in the world around them and invest their characters with these very real and natural traits). I mean, shouldn’t flimsy Hollywood platitudes along the lines of ‘never doubt yourself’ really be anathema to the insightful, nuanced fiction writer?

      So I suppose I’m saying, um, just don’t listen to these other comments, and keep on doubting yourself (but in a measured way).

      • All due respect jim, but we didn’t say, never doubt. That’s like saying, never breathe, never regroup, never grow.

        And we didn’t say become an ego-driven diva and ignore all who do not adore you.

        We said that believing in yourself is not a mistake.

        I’d like to gently suggest that not all platitudes are flimsy. And the idea persevering in the face of self doubt predates Hollywood tropes by several thousand years.

      • Sarah, I’m glad we seem to be in agreement (sort of) that some degree of self-doubt is not only to be expected, but can be productive.

        Let’s skip past the semantic cul-de-sac wrt the difference between ‘never stop doubting yourself’ and ‘never stop believing in yourself’. I’m sure you’ll agree that most the affecting literature – from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Mansfield to Munro – cleaves open the doubt/insecurity/duality of its characters, and that if a writer is a stranger to doubt and insecurity, it’s unlikely that she will effectively render them in the fictive realm.

        Moreover, a writer lacking vigilance wrt their own technique (fueled by doubt/insecurity), is surely less likely to improve. There’s a fine line between self-confidence and being impervious to advice or criticism (from within or without). Sounds like Beth’s on the right side of this line; doubting is what good writers – and intelligent, reflective people – do. Blind faith is for idiots.

        I know you’re not saying anything fundamentally contrary to this – I’m just attempting to clarify what I meant. Back at you with the respect and gentleness.

      • jim,

        Fair enough.

    • Man, Beth. When I read your post, I felt no compulsion to try to talk you out of your self-denigrating thoughts because I was struck by how impactful and well-written your one-sentence response was. Well done, girl! You’re definitely in the right business! Wish I could write a sentence like that. Speaks boatloads.

  4. There’s never enough wine.

  5. Still giving a fuck about it anymore.

  6. I feel you Sisi–why is the rum always gone?

    I hate everything that involves me not being done. =)

  7. Number 5. Number 5 makes me want to rip your fucking lips off so you can’t continue speaking.

  8. 1. The acquired bipolarity the process corners you into.

  9. 1. The aches and pains of sitting hunched for long periods of time.
    2. Explaining to my well-meaning family that writing takes time and practice like everything else.
    3. Explaining to my well-meaning family why taking my unedited manuscript to a vanity press to expedite publication isn’t the best career move, thanks.
    4. Sleep deprivation
    5. The guilt when I’m not writing
    6. The self-doubts.
    7. Chapter Fourteen
    8. The &%*$% inventor of the&%*$% alphabet
    9. My double-dash and ellipses addiction.
    10. My diet Pepsi addiction
    11. That I can’t afford to write full time and may never be able to do so—though this one probably belongs in the “Why I hate health insurance companies” thread.

    Whew. That felt . . . good.

  10. After looking through the list of jobs–I’m wondering if artists/entertainers/writers aren’t severely under-represented. I mean, food staff? Teachers? Salespeople? Aren’t those the top ‘real’ jobs for writers/artists? How much of that has to do with not doing what you want to do with your life and/or not being as successful as you imagined at it?

  11. nobody believing that being published is only the frosting on an outrageous cake (great frosting, sure, but frosting)

  12. other writers with a competitive streak as wide as a big old dictionary left perpetually open, like the ones on the pedestal stand at the library.

  13. The fact that as my work gets better, my ass gets bigger.

  14. 1) Not having time to write. 2) Having to rewrite. 3) Not writing fast enough. 4) Realizing I can do better. 5) Not being the exception–ever. 6) Wanting to finish already. 7) Things that get in the way of writing time: distractions, awesome TV shows, my mom, sleep, work, school, eating, showering. 8) Seeing someone else have fresh ideas. 9) Editing. 10) Critiquing someone who has a long, long, long way to go.

  15. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. REJECTION. Oh and don’t forget the constant influx of rejection. It all makes a person feel like they are insane for trying over and over and over again.

    But for some damn reason, I do and so do the rest of us. I guess there are enough pills out there for all of us. Who would have ever thought that writers would be helping the drug companies so much.

    • So many nos just to hear that one yes. But the yes makes it all worth it and you know this….

      • I know it will be worth it. I am just so ready to hear it. Over the weekend I was watching the Harry Potter Marathon on TV with the kids and thought, “What if she would have given up?”

        I really can’t imagine a world without HP.

      • I totally understand. I am querying new agents right now and I feel the same way; the rejections take it out of you for sure. But it’s some comfort to remember that EVERY writer you’ve ever loved has been where you are and felt what you feel.

  16. 1) Writing the book.
    2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) Rewriting the book.
    7) Finding out my agent pitched the book and then left the business.
    8) Writing a new book.
    9) The Da Vicini Code and Twilight.
    10) Yada, yada, yada.

  17. All the fucking disappointments.

  18. What do hate most about being a writer? The fact that the average Joe thinks ‘I can do that.’

  19. Off the top of my head:

    1. Having two female cousins who are accountants wonder in public forums where I went wrong, why I’m working with letters instead of numbers.
    2. Feeling I’m never going to get anywhere with writing until I get a paying job–because without money I am constantly anxious about money.
    3. Being anxious that writing what I want the way I want is selfish and/or unfair, not truthful enough, not detailed enough, awkward, unclear, dull, etc. etc.
    4. My inner critic, my outer critic, all those critics that hang out in dark alleyways and light alleyways waiting to kick my writer ass.
    5. Not having deadlines or specific assignments–at least occasionally.
    6. Trying really hard to be a good person and failing, failing, failing.
    7. Covering up uncertainty and shyness with bravado and aggressiveness (don’t always do this but have done and do it enough).
    8. Feeling as though I notice every fucking thing, whether I want to or not (this is the *feeling* I often have–tiring, overwhelming, distracting).
    9. Not finishing the book.
    10. The lady in Macy’s basement who stared daggers at me because I was cocking my head and gesturing behind Santa’s back (Santa was off-duty, chatting with a security guard). I was being silly for my husband’s entertainment–my husband was sitting behind the glaring woman. Backstory: A Santa was just fired from Macy’s for telling a dirty joke. Back-backstory: I suffer from Christmas Tourette’s you insensitive bitch.

    • I especially liked #’s 4 & 8. There’s no harsher critic than yourself and I agree that observation is a blessing and a curse.

    • #7 is painfully familiar. I hear you on all counts.

    • Thanks.

      Oh and my husband just said “But you ARE a good person” and “You’re too critical of yourself.” Oh great, another thing I have to FIX. 😉

    • Okay, #1 was so hysterical, you didn’t even to write anything else as far as I was concerned. But it’s good you did because it seems a lot of other people got a lot from it.

      PS Would like lessons in #7: how to cover up shyness and uncertainty with bravado and aggressiveness. I live in LA and would like to fit in better.

  20. 1) Too many ideas, not enough writing
    2) Too much writing, not enough ideas.
    3) Synonyms that seem determined to hide when you need them most.
    4) Armchair critics who only read spy thrillers, and really, your coming of age story set in 1890’s London would be better if there was a spy in it. Or secret code. Or a megalomaniac determined to blow the city off the map. And your heroine was a boy so he could save the day.
    5) Stratification – I READ Fantasy, SF, Magical Realism, Romance, YA, Steampunk, Literary Fiction, Historic Fiction, Fictional Biography etc. – so why can’t I WRITE in any or all of those genres?
    6) The idiots keep closing libraries!!!!
    7) Moving and trying to find a writer’s group that has any worth.
    8) Running out of chocolate at a critical juncture.
    9) Unreasonable people who expect me to shower, answer the door or pick up the phone at a critical juncture.
    10) Feeling like all my words drop into an uncrossable abyss.

    • Stupid auto bot that changes 8 parentheses to a smiley face!

      Oh… an my husband added

      11) Living with a writer
      12) NOT living with that writer

      • Husband gets it.

      • 1) Seeing people light up when they hear you’re a writer and knowing that they want to talk about THEIR writing!
        2) Having a son – and now a husband – who have come out as writers
        3) Not writing
        4) People who ask “How’s your book doing? What are sales like?”
        5) People saying ‘This will interest you as a writer’.

    • NUMBER 8!!!!!

    • Brilliant, all of it. I totally agree. Especially #9. If for some reason I mention to my husband I took a shower or washed my hair, he now says something along the lines of “Oh, why? Is it Saturday already?” Ha. Ha.

  21. 1. day jobs
    2. ‘why don’t you self-publish?’
    3. ‘why don’t you self-publish an e-book?’
    4. ‘my cousin’s dermatologist wrote a book on acne once, you guys should meet!’
    5. people who don’t read, and admit it out loud
    6. rejection
    7. waiting for rejections
    8. fixing my comma splices
    9. ‘I only read the classics’
    10. that my devotion to writing will keep me from being a dance instructor/ tugboat captain/ UN interpreter

    • Number 5 . . . I get that one a lot from my day job.

      Whe one declares that one doesn’t read, it doesn’t sound edgy, it sounds . . . illiterate. I always want to ask what they do so I canvisit them at their workplace and tell them their services aren’t necessary.

      And Number 9: (headdesk)

    • I have the same #4 but replace dermatologist with hairdresser. He could teach me a lot, I’m told.

    • Re: # 5–some people refer to TV Guide and Field and Stream as books and are proud to admit that’s all they read.

    • #5 — I have the same level disdain for the “I don’t read” people as I do for a criminal. Reasonable? Maybe not. But the feeling is the feeling. When people admit this — usually with pride — I want to scream, “Well then, aren’t you a dumbass!!!!”

      • Yes … some people don’t have time to read because they’re working/caring for people, commuting, etc. But yeah, I hear you re broadcasting not reading as something to be *proud* of. Used to smuggle books into work from the train and store them in the locker over my desk. After 8 months the locker was full as were the desk drawers–my library. (I did not read when I was working but often read on breaks and during the train portion of the commute.) Had little to talk to co-workers about, unfortunately, as most of them conversed mainly about Project Runway and American Idol, which I didn’t watch and which, along with celebrity gossip (esp re appearance, weight), I couldn’t pretend I was much interested in. Self-exile, I suppose. However I can’t say that I foisted my book-learning on people or that I bragged about READING. Funny, oh well, what are ya gonna do …

    • when people say, “i don’t read” i look at them with sorrow and reply, “how embarrassing for you.”

      • I’m giving you a standing ovation righ now, which is making it difficult to type and is weirding out the other customers at Borders.

        But you deserve it!

  22. 1. Interruptions.
    2. “But it’s just one thing.”
    3. Finding wonderful books on the remainders shelf
    4. Split infinitives.
    5. Vanilla Wafers. Actually, I love Vanilla Wafers but I hate what happens to me when I eat too many.
    6. Writers of other genre’s who think I should write the way they write.
    7. Not knowing if there is an apostrophe in genres or not.
    8. Screwing around (not literally) and wasting time while pretending to a) doing research that doesn’t need to be done; b) meditating, again for the eighth time today, just write already; c) and otherwise procrastinating when I know damn well that I just need to sit down and write the scene. Or the next five pages.
    9. (cue whiney voice:) It’s haaaarrrrrddd.
    10. Silence. The times when the response to my blog or sample pages is a big blank.
    11. Always needing to have lists of ten things. I am not a ten person.

    • re: 7. not knowing or not, exhibit a of not proofing. I hate proooffing.

      re: 8. exhibit b of not proofing. “pretending to be a)

      For the record, I keep thinking about the title, Split Infinities. I like it.

  23. Loving — intensely loving — people that do not actually exist.

    Loving and caring for people that no one around me will ever know.

    Writing these wonderful people and having no one around me actually admit to not wanting to read my book. (“Oh, I’m just so busy right now. I’ll do it someday.”) Just tell me you’d rather pull out your eyes with a corkscrew than read my book, okay? Then at least we’d both know where we stand.

    • Agreed — when people say they haven’t had time to read my work. I hate that I feel as offended and hurt as I do. And I hate pretending – to their face – that it’s okay.

      • Especially when those same people have a thousand hours a week to screw around online, play computer games, watch reruns and chatter on the phone. Or stand around bored waiting for their kids to get out of ballet.

        The time that I read, in other words. 🙂 Sure, some people are not readers. That’s not a badge of shame. Just cut the writers who love you off quick and clean and we’ll all be happier that way. Honest. 🙂

    • I hate it when friends ASK to read it and then you send it and they never do. I’ve started letting people know right off the bat that I find it hurtful when this happens, which seems to do the trick.

  24. Writers groups. I don’t do groups well. The time I joined Weight Watchers, I gained 15 pounds. I kept thinking who are they to tell me what I can eat.. My teachers used to write Bonnie does not play well with others on my report cards. When I write, I have to be alone..

  25. People who don’t get me. I don’t think my humor is terribly complicated.

  26. 1.Fighting with editors who want to change my literary work into, “You know, make it more like Nancy Drew. And, ah, let’s kill off the mother, okay, kiddo?”

    2.Agents whose emails sound like telegrams.

    3. Amazon reviewers whose only qualification be that they’re over 13 years old.

    4.The no longer vague feeling that I’m missing something.

    5.Exhaustion from singing, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms,” no matter how many great reviews I get. It takes just that one acne-ridden GoodReads bitch who hasn’t left her Appalachian cabin in seven years.

    6. The damn librarian who saved Dewy.

    7. Writers who think getting published is the end and be all the same way I did. Heartbreaking.

  27. 1. “You should be on Oprah!”

    2. “You should write MY story!”

    3. “How many copies have you sold?”

    4. Opening up my daily paper (The Boston Globe) and seeing day 43 men to 2 women being reviewed.

    5. Obsessively checking Amazon numbers.

  28. Obsession. Sometimes I wish I could just be instead of seeking the meaning of everything. How can I write about this, there’s a story behind that; the image of a pale rosy early winter sunrise is one I just can’t get out of my head.

    Townes Van Zant (another tough gig–musician) once said, “To live is to fly.”

  29. 1) “So, how’s the book doing?” There are only three answers: It’s a bestseller, shitty and I don’t know. Stop asking!
    2) Agents who pretend to be human when they’re courting you, then revert back to being made of metal.
    3) Not knowing whether it’s “writers’ group” or “writer’s group.”

  30. Things I hate about being a writer:

    1. How fucking touchy I am about being a writer.
    2. Lack of sleep.
    3. Hearing, “I’ve got a great story for you to tell !!!”
    4. That my best ideas come between 2 and 5 a.m.
    5. Lack of sleep.
    6. How I never really listen to my husband because I’m always thinking about myself.
    7. When people say, “How’s your book?” or “You’re the next Danielle Steele!” (and they’re stupidly-fucking-serious)
    8. Lack of sleep.
    9. How loud my quiet is.
    10. Lack of sleep.

  31. the fact that “not writing” is a big dark cloud of stink that hangs over my head from the second I wake until the second I sleep (lifting only when I’m in the red chair fingers moving across the keyboard) making all the other shit I do, kids, exercise, obsessive thinking, feel like criminal acts.

  32. 1. The maddening discordance between when I’m ready to write and when I’m able.
    2. My husband now thinks I’m uninteresting.
    3. The realization that I am, in fact, uninteresting.
    4. The constant begging. Read me read me read me.
    5. The polite negative response to number 4.
    6. My children think I’m writing the next Twilight. (Kids, there is no Santa Claus.)
    7. The guilty gobbling up of hours at a time. The sneaky writing in my car and in waiting rooms and, god help me, locked in the bathroom.
    8. (Excuse me. I’m still bitter about number 5.)
    9. Everything I’ve written looks like garbage six months later. It makes me distrust every word I write today.
    10. Nigel Ennis, the character who lured me down this godforsaken path in the first place. Fucking Irishmen.

    Come to think of it, I hate everything about writing except writers.

    • Ah, # 7. I think I’d use a freakin’ handful of sand on a flat rock to spell out some idea I didn’t want to lose and carry it carefully home, hoping all the while that the wind didn’t pick up.

  33. 1. same as Spring Chicken–“why don’t you self-publish?” ugh

    2. The goblins telling me to stop writing

    3. SASEs–I hate seeing my handwriting with my carefully chosen stamps (American Quilts, Ella Fitzgerald etc etc) in my mailbox.

    4. Agents who respond to a snail query with an email rejection. What’s with that? My heart goes pitter pat when I see the subject of the email and then it’s a standard rejection.

    5. Night terrors–I have that one, too.

    6. Gushy requests to see my partial, which then bounces back to me in the return mail.

    7. The queasy feeling I get after writing comments on blogs (Did I really write that??)

    • I don’t understand requesting partials period. Can someone explain the wisdom of this please? Especially in this day of electronic submissions why not just ask for the whole thing and if you hate it after three chapters then by all means, stop reading. It just seems like adding a step.

  34. How it makes me even more insecure

  35. 1. writer’s block
    2. writers who don’t get it

  36. Being unpublished.

  37. I hate not knowing if I’m wasting my time.

    Of course, when someone asks me if I would stop writing if I knew I would never be published I have to admit that publication is not why I write. I write because it is who I am. Although, publication would be nice. 😉

  38. This has nothing to do with today, but why is this blog still on pre-daylight savings time? I see an entry that’s posted an hour from when I’m reading it and think, Wow, there’s somebody who should be getting late bets in on major sporting events.

  39. An interesting read http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/magazine/28depression-t.html?pagewanted=all

    80 percent of 30 MFA writer candidates at Iowa met diagnostic criteria for depression (believe that’s the stat they quote in the piece–skimming on my way out the door and wanted to get this POSTED before I go and forget).

  40. People here have finished a book–even more than one book. That in itself is a tremendous achievement. Please pause to congratulate yourself. even if no one else does.

  41. 1. My mother saying “You don’t need to rewrite your novel. It’s good enough for me.”

    2. Getting the rejection, being sure I’m going to quit, just to realize the next day how I can rewrite it to make it just that much better. Getting rejected again.

    3. Trying to fit writing in between work and family.

    4. The computer locking up just as I wrote a really good paragraph and resolved the biggest flaw I found in the book.

    5. The computer taking 10 minutes to boot up. Locking up then taking another 10 minutes to reboot when I am trying to get in a little writing in the 30 minutes I have free.

    6. People who ask to read something then say they just can’t get around to it instead of just saying it needs work.

    7. Having to rewrite and perfect this book instead of running off and writing the first draft on that next fun book.

    Andrea

  42. The worst? People that ask, “…and uh, what is your novel about?”

  43. 01. not believing in yourself
    02. reading other people’s books and feeling that you can do better
    03. having so many stories inside of you, you feel like you are going to burst
    04. fear of not being published
    05. being stuck on the first draft’s closing chapters
    06. people telling you that writing is easy
    07. people telling you that writing is not a job and you should get a ‘real’ one or give up on your dream.
    08. writers block
    09. Feeling as if writing is your whole world and you will not feel complete without it
    10. the knowledge that people do not always understand that writing is not what you do but who you are.

  44. Thinking the stories I write are better than real life and then realizing half way to insanity that real life is far more interesting yet far more boring at most times. Being a writer makes me wish I was a warrior or a whore, anything. Finding myself alone yet again, having turned everyone away so I could concentrate and materialize that life I wished I was living, a life I wish was so interesting. Feeling the gravity of uselessness, as in a realization the life I have chosen to live has already been lived by writers far better than me and who seem to only have come to life after they are very much dead and my life is, well, not easy. I hate it that writing is harder work than being a blue collar schmuck. I hate it that my parentage is so wrong in thinking limb-muscle work was something to be proud of and now I am doing double time to make up for a few generations lapse in mental work which may seem insane to those who don’t exercise it but it is something that is not a gift but a working and it hurts and I hate it that it hurts but I know that is work and so maybe my parents and their parents are not the anti-Christ and maybe all this writing stuff has a purpose But I definitely hate this Betsy girl for asking questions like this and I hate it that I try not to tune in once in while but I can’t help it sometimes, and fuck her anyway. Who the hell do you think you are asking questions like that? Doesn’t the fact hat I get it explain everything? Boy oh boy. Girls, always making’ trouble. What do I hate most about being a writer? I hate creating a sadness, and a sadness that has no resolution. It fucks me up to leave my kids to themselves in this world. I hate it.

    • Clarification: Leave my kids to this world where a truth is just, as it turns out, another soap opera so some asshole can feel warm and safe and pay its rent or the taxing lease and those things that create love are considered cliche or mundane. I hate the whole thing, but I know nothing else.

    • being a certain kind of writer (like one who can put together words like you) is being a warrior. and that’s a gift.

  45. That it’s never going to happen. Never, never, never. That this dream I’ve nurtured for all these years is just that, and I’m going to die, and “That’s all Folks,” thank the hat check pig at the counter.

    • And when you thank the hat check pig at the counter do you look in the eyes of “it” and wonder what the life of “it” is and then feel inadequate that you don’t know and then question the fact that you used the word pig when in fact that pig is trying to survive just like you and it all slows down and you realize we might be creating insanity with our words on paper when none of us know how to speak to our fellow man? And I am very drunk on wine and listening to Maggot Brain full blast and I am in love with writing again although I wish I was brave enough to be a rock star, but my real fear is what will my book say. But for now, I need to rock-out.

  46. With all due respect, Betsy, if there were ever three words that were unnecessary on this blog, they are these:

    “Don’t hold back”

  47. There isn’t anything I hate (or even dislike) about writing (and I have been doing it for a REALLY long time)
    It’s more the nonsense that is part of the business side of it–the magazines that stiff you or offer ridiculously low pay rates, the clients who also think you should work for peanuts and the people who think time is the only thing you need to write a book (as in “I would write a book too if I had the time”)
    But writing–it’s the only thing I ever wanted to do and the one thing that never fails to make me feel like I am doing what I was meant to do. And I am lucky that I can do it and make a living at it (well, so to speak, although my definition of “making a living” has been revised after the recession…)
    Even if I didn’t need the money, I would write.

  48. And, sorry, Betsy, but I need to add this: the arrogance, dismissiveness and sheer rudeness of literary agents.

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