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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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How Can You Stop The Rain From Falling Down?

I call it the Rapture of the Deep.  It’s when a writer is so deep into his work that he begins to think everything in the known universe relates to it. He could be staring at a laminated menu, a horse galloping in an open field, or a proctologist snapping his rubber glove, and believe that each of these tableaus relates to his work. Or the day’s headlines about taxes, popularity ratings, or Ashton Kutcher filling in for Charlie Sheen, and somehow relate these events with his novel. In scuba diving, rapture of the deep results from oxygen deprivation and can cause a diver to swim in the opposite direction from the surface when he needs air.  Rapture is a sublime combination of narcissism, compulsion, and expansiveness; it can be confused with mania as it shares some of the same symptoms: racing thoughts, grandiosity, exaggerated self-regard.

Do you know what I’m taking about?

47 Responses

  1. Racing thoughts I am there, big time. Always. Rapture? Not at all. But everything in my life relates to my work. Lately, after I write it. I’m scaring my daughter.

  2. Mania is one of my favorite things in the world. Now, if we could only bottle mania without the flip side…

    And yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about, when everything in the world conspires to be about your WIP. It’s like being in love, before you’ve said it, and after you think they feel the same way. But you’re not absolutely sure, and therein lies the excitement…and the fear.

    • That love feeling is a great comparison.

      It suggests some new questions for Betsy (et al., on this blog): Does love interfere with writing? Which comes first?

      • It most certainly does. Thanks to my children, I know exactly what rapture means. My WIP hovers above, tempting me with promises of Caldecott and Newbery awards, but it is the children who’ve got me locked in their embrace. Even though she’s been dead for years, my mother’s words echo in my ear, “You can’t have it all, sweetie.”

      • Interfere? isn’t living all about finding balance? New Love, New Baby, New Story Plot: all call for more attention and the rest of one’s life adapts. Then the lover goes to the office, the baby naps, the story plot hits a conundrum and that’s when you pay bills, call old friends, iron clothes. Maybe I just revel in the many layers, determined not to be deprived of too much – except sleep.

      • I hear you. Good on you for finding the balance. Me? Not so much. I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew.

      • You can’t have it all…at the same time, MSB.

  3. “Rapture in the Deep” … hmmm, now that would be a good title for my novel.

  4. I know, I know! Delusions of grandeur followed by delusions of humility. Confidence, confusion.

  5. Serendipity or zeitgeist the answer is Hell to the yeah I know what you mean

  6. It sounds like a nice trip!

  7. This has got to be my favorite of all of your posts thus far. (All you psychotherapists/patients out there: take that sentence at face value, just this once.)

  8. If I could just figure out the expansiveness thing, I’d be all set.

  9. I know! It’s just about the nicest feeling in the world. And yes, it’s better than sex. It lasts longer, for one thing.

  10. Saw a guy called “Rapper Of The Deep” years ago. He was awful. And confusingly, rather shallow with his musings on hos and scoring rock etc. Further confounding the issue was that he was English, and living in the suburbs.

    As for the Rapture, well. Just another syndrome to add to the list, eh?

  11. i’m confused. are you saying that mika, joe and willy aren’t sending me special messages through presidential polls about my WIP?

  12. Yes. It’s the fix that keeps me fixed.

  13. In just about every moment of my spare time, I write about the subject of my [more than] full-time job.

    There’s no hope for me.

  14. Yes, I know exactly what Betsy is talking about. It happens to me in periods of intense study or concentration, whether the object is reading, writing, or some other pursuit. Sometimes the material invades my dreams, though that’s a somewhat different subject; I’ve had dreams about theater work, and even occasional dreams about mathematics.

  15. “Rapture of the Deep” describes that immersion state perfectly. It’s rare, but it has to happen for a story to levitate. I’m mixing metaphors, I know—going deep, flying high—but they do go together.

  16. Great post, Betsy, and yes I know exactly what you’re talking about. Makes me think of an issue my protagonist is going through in Chapter 28 …

  17. No, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Every time I get close someone steps up like the baby from Family Guy, ‘mom, mom, mom, mom….hi.’ It’s a conspiracy.

  18. No.

  19. I don’t know if it’s so much that everything relates to it or just the opposite, that I’m so wrapped up in my work I can’t see the outside world at all. I don’t want to lose momentum and if someone or something interrupts the process before I get my thoughts or restructured passages down on paper–it all disappears too fast, my problems with short term memory loss and all–I feel like I have entered a strange world and wonder where the swaying plants have gone and why the mermaids are walking on dry land.

  20. Not sure if rapture or rupture is the correct word…

    Never-the-less, when I start recognizing my characters in the faces of complete strangers (one time, sending a director a photo from the local newspaper to “show’ him the exact embodiment of a character), I know I’m in immersion-mode. However, IF I ever discover I’m getting inspiration from Ashton K, I’ll abandon this writing thang and take up knitting.

  21. During the spring of my senior year in college, everything related back to sonnets. Building a wall? Sonnets. Drinking coffee? Sonnets. An argument with a friend: wait was that a volte?

  22. I’ve been ranting out this phenomena (but not making nearly as much sense) for the past two weeks. I’m reading “Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” and Mukherjee writes (quite compellingly) about the pioneers of cancer treatment. He shows how each of them was fueled by an obsession so profound they saw everything around them through the lens of whatever particular dilemma they were attempting to solve in their quest to treat some small aspect of the disease. Like the pathologist who first discovered that mechanisms could be turned off in cells (after he heard about the discovery of B12 turning on mechanisms in cells to make them receptive to iron to treat pernicious anemia) which led to what we know as chemotherapy. He’d been attempting to find a means of slowing the progression of leukemia (a disease doctors most doctors wouldn’t touch) and was so obsessed with finding a means of slowing down the crazy white cell factory in bone marrow, he saw everything through that lens, and Mukherjee shows how even the pathologist’s wife ‘s practicing of piano scales (she was a concert pianist) nudged his mind to that place. That’s just one of example of many in his book that showed (to me anyway) that if you concentrate hard enough on a problem and then step aside, the universe will reveal answers to questions your conscious mind didn’t know how to ask.. which I think is so much like the creative process.

  23. I know what you mean, but then a dog barks and my spell is broken. The word “compulsion” always makes me think of a train barreling down the track. And now I’m singing Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function? in my head.

    Shit. And I wonder why I’m not getting anything done.

    • But wait, a train barreling down a track is not always a bad thing. There’s no stopping to smell the roses but it is embodied energy and I crave that. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

  24. Help. I’m close to finishing my first novel and it’s giving me insomnia. Can anyone recommend an herbal, legal sleep aid? I don’t want to take prescription meds. I don’t want to drink. I just want the thoughts to stop at night.

    • Sounds like you’re riding the wave. You may want to stay on top of it until it takes you to shore. And hang on tight. Bumpy nights of little sleep come with that part of the ocean.

  25. You had me at laminated menu. Lunch ?

  26. Oh my god, yes! Once upon a time I wrote an entire novel (75,000 words) in two weeks. It was like standing up on rollercoaster – exhilarating, exhausting, scary and – dare I say it – sexy as hell.

    While I have never been able to quite duplicate that pace for that length of time, I have now and then had those hypo manic states when everything, EVERYTHING is about the writing. The way the wind blows and the trees bend. Water dripping from the faucet. The cat perched on my keyboard, on my shoulder, clinging to my lap. Seventeen zillion people all breathing in my ear at once and no place to park. Would it be weird to say I ache for those moments?

    A subject for a short story …

  27. Oh yes, yes, yes. This is the Viagra-crack-yum of writers, and just the thing to crowd out the fear and doubt.

  28. Yes! And I get separation anxiety about leaving the house, leaving my work.

  29. Yes, Ma’am. I knew I wasn’t crazy. But it is a thin and sobering line to tow.

  30. Well, duh, Betsy.

    You see, the book I am writing is about Mythical Horses who interact with a human world and here you go and write a post that speaks directly to horses, and humans and the world.

    I take that as a sign.

    Thank you.

  31. A few days ago, I drove my my daughter to school by a different route than usual.

    Halfway there, I hear, “Mom? Are you lost, or are you listening to your book people again?”

    Not much difference, kid.

  32. Ah, this is exactly where I am with my novel right now. It’s pretty much all I think about, I can’t read another book or work on another project or even have a conversation without thinking about my characters or the couple of plot problems I’m having. And I’m loving it!

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