• Bridge Ladies

    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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One Day It’s Kicks Then It’s Kicks In the Shins

Well, this incredible year is winding down. I felt like quitting publishing in March after I crashed and burned so badly on a project that I no longer trusted myself. And that, whether you are an agent, editor, publisher, or writer, is the worst. We’re all clomping around in the forest as far as I can tell, but when you realize you’ve lost your compass, well you’re fucked. All you really have is your taste, your belief, your instinct, your gut. Separate yourself from these for a moment and you are a goner. Nobody really knows what’s going to work, but believing in something and having the insanity of your convictions is crucial to any success. If you build it they will come, and all that. But of course, here in bookland, if you build it they can also ignore it, savage it, remainder it,  and pulp it.

The year for me ended on an incredible high with lots of sales and, of course, Patti’s win. It’s cyclical this business. It loves to fuck with you. I can’t believe I’ve been doing it for 25 years. This from a girl who couldn’t get a publishing job in 1982 when she  failed every typing test at every major publisher. I’ve never said this before and I may not say it again: I feel lucky.

What’s it like when you lose your way?

41 Responses

  1. Losing your way…reminds me of the black story–the one about the blind man looking for a black cat in a black room without any light.

  2. Nel’ mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
    Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
    Che la diritta via era smarrita…. baby.

    Alcohol alcohol alcohol.

    It’s like shantih shantih shantih only it costs more and sometimes there are, you know, ladies there, in similarly desperate straits. Then you know what happens. And then one day you wake up naked on your dirty kitchen floor and you say: enough? Nah. then one day you wake up in the hospital and you say enough? Nah. And then one day you realize you could actually be happy if you could just manage not to fuck things up, and you say enough, now, enough? And you say, yeah, actually. Enough.

  3. Talking about it makes me feel like it might happen. Shhh. Don’t say it. It’s why I write every day. Have to or I might not find my way back.

  4. I’m doing okay now so I don’t want to remember what it’s like when I lose my way. What I make myself remember in the bad times is that if I wait long enough, things will get better. For a quick fix I organize my purse. For everything else I remind myself that no one will love and care for my pets the way I do, so I need to stick around for them.

  5. It’s like the way you feel after you’ve spent too much time on Facebook.

  6. i yell and i cry and i write blog postings with run-on sentences and then i eat breyer’s all natural vanilla ice cream with whatever type of chocolate i can fine in my house and pour cold, 1/2-day-old coffee on it and take bubble baths. the next day, i read what i wrote after i yelled and cried and i think, “Holy shit, what a freaking mess I am.” But I don’t delete the post even though I consider it because we all lose our way, and for me, finding it again is easiest when i can read other people stories about how they lost their way.

  7. I’m crushed. It’s lonely out here in TryingToBeAWriterLand (one reason why I enjoy this blog and the thoughts of others going through similar shit) and I spend a lot of time sorting through and improving the garbage I just put up on the screen. My best times come when family or friends unknowingly pull me through, mostly just by being themselves, and I realize, oh yeah, there is a world beyond the inside of my head.

  8. Everything loses its color, and there’s no sense of beauty in the grays either . . . I start picking on husband’s career, telling him what to do (b/c that’s what’s going to save me since I can’t save myself). I stop laughing. I want to sleep a lot. Sigh. Hate this place. Hate it.

  9. I have no words for what it feels like to lose my way…which is, poetically or ironically or whatever, what it does feel like.

    No words.

    • Yes, just like a vacuum – they’re gone, sucked inside, lodged or whatever. And then I know I’m in trouble. Or would that be my purest state? 🙂

  10. Congrats on your sales and on the Patti Smith win–loved that book!

    When I lose my way, I quit writing. I do that about once a week. Recently I donated all my writing books to friends and to the local bookstore, relieved I no longer had to pretend to be a writer.

    Within the week, I rec’d thoughtful rejection letters from two agents with suggestions for how to improve my ms. So I went back and revised like hell because the suggestions were good ones. Maybe I’m not a Writer anymore, but I still love writing and I appreciate those people who steer me in the right direction when I get lost.

  11. Hey, put a red sweater on that pig and that could be me after a few egg nogs!

  12. i get quiet.

    i try to think about Leonard Cohen, an old man who lost his money to a bad manager and is out touring the world to make up the difference. check it out. the old man is on fucking fire.

    then i remind myself to live healthfully so i can be an old woman on fucking fire.

  13. Great writing doesn’t generally come out of happiness. It mostly comes out of misery. So I have found ways to keep myself generally miserable. Too much happiness makes me feel like I’m going to lose my edge.

  14. I love when you say, “…having the insanity of your convictions is crucial to any success.” This reminds me of a favorite Tom Robbins quote, “There are essential and inessential insanities. The latter are solar in character, the former are linked to the moon. Inessential insanities are a brittle amalgamation of ambition, aggression, and pre-adolescent anxiety – garbage that should have been dumped long ago. Essential insanities are those impulses one instinctively senses are virtuous and correct, even though peers may regard them as coo-coo. Inessential insanities get one in trouble with one’s self. Essential insanities get one in trouble with others. In fact, it may be essential.” That said, my essential insanities have certainly led me astray at times (e.g., trainwreck marriage).

  15. Losing one’s way? No, no, no! Call it “lying fallow” or “building life-force for the blossoms of spring” and much of the angst can be postponed, perhaps indefinitely.

  16. I’ve felt exactly like this for the last year. I had an incredible idea and started to write it, but strayed from the real heart of the story for a time. After a lot of wandering in the mental desert on this story, I gave up. I was depressed and felt worthless, like I’d lost the ability to connect with the “source” or whatever lets me have authentic ideas that come from the heart. I finally found my way back after taking some time to find silence and time, two things that are precious and hard to obtain with a teaching job and two kids.

  17. Like the black forest at midnight on a moonless night. But then, that’s the normal state of things for moi.

  18. My husband has been reading these over my shoulder. His contribution:

    “Dirk Turgid—erotic space adventurer! Up, up, and awaaaay!”

  19. You say to yourself when your agent can’t sell any of your novels after 9 years of trying: screw this. And then you give the finger to your yet-to-be-realized writing career by going to graduate school for an unrelated field. Then you start this program and it’s like learning a whole new language which makes you feel even worse. Finally, you realize that you can’t escape what you really are, even if you fail at it time and time again. And hopefully, you didn’t go into too much debt to figure that out.

  20. I call it bushwacking.
    Always always looking for a way back homeward.

  21. When I lose my way in a story i feel a shallow, tepid desperation to look for sign but lack the will and courage to hunt.

  22. Like this only worse

    –excerpt from a long unfinished poem-story:

    Whiskey Bill was on the brink!
    He’d learned to balk the balk
    and blink the blink.
    His stint no longer stunted,
    his pint for good he’d punted.

    Bill was only 26
    with his whole life before him
    (he wondered what came after).
    He was not strong on decorum.
    Whiskey Bill was on his way.
    ‘Whatever!’ was his rallying cry.
    (Bill was an indifferentiast of the highest order).

    And so he set off,
    moving his feet for many a night
    and barely a day.
    Headed for the Belgian border,
    armed with waffle-iron and tape-recorder,
    with every step Bill would reconnoiter
    and juggle his priorities until, at last,
    nothing came first —
    and everything was final.
    Orders, he’d found,
    were the last to know.
    They were always on the march,
    They were always on the go.

    Soon it became evident:
    there was no going back
    and no going forward,
    though the steps in between
    were firm and untoward.
    Still Bill’s resolve never did dwindle,
    never did wane, nor doubt did kindle,
    as waffle after waffle did he
    meticulously spindle.

    Being a pirate of poetic kind,
    possessed of handsome scabbard
    and iambic mind,
    Bill sought adventures
    of the nautical kind, which, in Belgium,
    he found,
    were hard to find.
    Urban by nature,
    Bill had no clue
    how to navigate nature,
    though he’d been to a zoo.
    And was quite a collector
    of stuffed kangaroos
    and other marsupials
    (all of which had died,
    he’d been guaranteed,
    of natural causes,
    like scurvy and greed).

    Gripping his sword
    and reciting his creed,
    Bill scaled the Not-Mountains of Belgium,
    rappelling with rare surcease.
    When pausing on a bluff,
    he would snack
    from a can of aerosol cheese,
    sip elderberry wine
    from a canteen with ease.
    Thus fortified, Bill clambered along,
    over moss-covered rocks, through armies of bees.
    Soon Bill’s thoughts turned melancholy
    and he crooned a quiet song:

    Something might happen
    at some point,
    something might happen
    sometime soon.
    But for now I’ll just walk
    by the light of this
    not-at-all-reassuring moon.

  23. it feel like a long blue black night with one faint star in the sky.

  24. dance, sing, draw, go for a walk, focus your attention on someone or something else — not that anyone should be interested in becoming unlost, necessarily, but it is possible to *feel* unlost.

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