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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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Should I Cool It Or Should I Blow?

The great paradox of being an agent, or at least being me as an agent, is that I can ask for anything for my clients. I can rise to occasions and sink to new depths, I can plead, beg, cajole, nudge, charm. I can stroke, joke, whisper, clash. I can smash my fucking head through a plate glass window and tap dance. But what I can’t do is ask for myself. I can’t even speak up for myself when a person cuts me. If they can’t cut in front of me, who can they cut? I am so fucking tired of catching more bees with honey.  I am so tired of the foxtrot. Tommy, can you feel me?

Does your writing come first?

63 Responses

  1. Not only doesn’t my writing come first, it mostly feels like it’s not even on the radar. But I don’t let people cut me in line.

  2. Depends on the list.

  3. Kids come first.

    But not forever.

    This is both marvelous and sad, and why writers who are parents (or parents who are writers) tend toward the manic depressive.

    Or perhaps it’s just me.

  4. Not often enough.

  5. No. Smashing my head through plate glass windows and tap dancing pretty much sums it up. As long as it’s for someone else.

  6. Depends on the day. If I can schedule the Other Stuff away from my productive hours, then writing cuts in to the front of the line. But normally, it gets the late evening slot (like now).

  7. Yo! I can only imagine your angst. Selling bullshit when you know you’ve got the good stuff in your hand. Although, I can only imagine that that is like working the stock market—one thing sells at one moment and the next it’s cliche. That, from what I have seen, or rather read, is the gist of art these days. Is it even art or just cowering to people with money, so, of course, we may live. My God. Who, I ask you, who, is the judge? I can only imagine people I don’t want to know, wouldn’t invite to my home, and would rather not touch, even as a handshake. Maybe things are changing in ways that even you, Betsy, don’t see coming. Of course, I’m a nerd with a keyboard. Seriously. I rarely write. Well, I have a god-given plot but the details depress me so I don’t write it out. I don’t know why. It’s like getting into a fight and I hate fighting. It hurts. It hurts my feelings. I like people! I don’t know The Who, but, ah, gee-wiz, toot your own horn? I’ve read both of your books and I would with all my new-earned hard cash buy your next. That, for you, is the one thing I haven’t lied about. Yep.

  8. Writing comes first when what I’m really trying to do is sleep. Nothing gets the sentences flowing like fluffing the pillow and clapping my hands like a calypso granny to turn off the lamp.

    Tonight I’m going to bed after seeing Harry Reid outside the house floor, saying these exact words: “I’m not here to defend Weiner.” Come. On. Who the hell can sleep with that running through her head. I may as well leave the computer on.

  9. Yes, it comes first. It comes every day. Sometimes it comes quietly, padding like a housecat on fog feet. Sometimes it comes biting the pillow and emitting a strange, strangled roar. Sometimes it comes with laughter, sometimes it comes with tears. Sometimes it comes with sweet whispers, sometimes it comes with nothing more than a command–“Look at me!” But I open myself to it and it comes every day.

  10. You are an agent because you can leave yourself when you work. You can smash, crash, bash. yell, jump and be okay. The real you could never do that. The poet would implode without the agent allowing her to be who she would like to be.

  11. Well, you know, being a Princess and all, I come first. Except when I’m not a princess.

    I remember this “what comes first” conundrum initially plaguing me when I was six fucking years old. I had to go poo. I refused to go until I finished organizing the food, water and shavings in my gerbil cage. There I was, constipating myself until my gerbils were taken care of. Even at six, I knew this was a problem, but I was also weirdly proud of it.

    Thank God I saw this play out in an ugly way with my grandmother, so I could see the end stage of martyrdom. She’s still alive, my Oma. Been in a nursing home for ten years. She’s 98 and her family visits her once a year. So now, I shit when I need to, and, mostly, I write selfishly and relentlessly.

    • About ten years ago, I received my parent-teacher conference schedule and 4:00 was filled with a very long name that began with “Princess.” And she was.

      Life item #222: Parent-teacher conference with a Princess? Check.

  12. Yes. As a result, I have few friends and no social calendar. But if I get hit by a bus and die tomorrow, I’ll never regret not having gone to so-and-so’s party. I’ll regret not writing a story that (I hope) will be published someday.

  13. Thus, your blog.

  14. I finally spoke up about being cut in front of in line. I was in line at a hip place where you have to weigh your salad to pay. Because I was only holding a roll, this lady from the side put her salad on the scale when the one who had just paid moved hers off and was gathering her wallet etc. When the cashier who was prepared to avoid conflict caught my eye – a millisecond – I said, “This will be all,” and held up the roll. I felt so good about that; better than mutttering some obscenity in English (many people speak it kind of well here) and fuming.

    Yes, my writing comes first but I always make time to edit/proof other people’s work when they ask. I just can’t say no but have gotten better about specifying what I can and can’t do and for when.

  15. In my experience, “Does your writing come first” is always a trick question for a woman with children. So, coming from Betsy I have to give it sudden, special thought. No, it doesn’t. Sometimes urgent matters around offspring come first, or sex comes first, or taxes come first, or I’m just hungry first. Whatever rises to the top as most important comes first. When this thing is my work I neglect my children, partner, sex life and health. I have done this for years. My partner and children have suffered. My economy is a shambles. My novel, Daughters of the Revolution (about the sexual revolution), was published today. A great day. When my writing comes first, others suffer. Some men I know have been better trained to accept this.

    • Congratulations Carolyn!

    • I like this post and congratulations!

    • I wholeheartedly agree. I guess for me it’s more about believing my work comes first. My children, my husband, our home certainly takes priority but it’s important that I think my art comes first. Otherwise, I would break apart from resentment. Oh, and yes, congratulations! A great day, indeed.

    • Congratulations, Carolyn! The book looks great. I just ordered it.

    • First off, congratulations Carolyn. As for the rest of it, yes yes and yes.

    • Congratulations! I lift my glass in a toast to you.

    • Carolyn — I just got an e-mail from your publicist about your book, the kind they send out to people who blog about books even once in a blue moon. It sounds wonderful! I just ordered it, because it seems wrong to ride on the freebie. Good luck with it! xo

    • Hey, aren’t you coming to Boston sometime soon? Think I just read about it in the Globe calendar! Congratulations!

  16. Last year I dumped a half decent man because he picked up the slim British literary journal with my story inside and said, ‘So how many people are going to read this?’

  17. And another thing about those Brits, they sure know how to form an orderly queue.

    • That is to be admired. Being back here I find myself taking defensive positions in line ready to block, tackle, whatever is necessary to keep my spot. Eye contact works too.

  18. 1) Paying Bills
    2) Exercise
    3) Writing
    4) Fixing things in my apartment
    5) Hanging out with friends
    5) Sex

    Clearly, more than a few things are wrong with this Godless list of priorities.

  19. It does and I don’t even feel badly about it.

  20. Who’s on first. What’s on second. Dog’s on third.

  21. Mom
    Household animal husbandry expert
    Entertainment for my neighbors

    • Hold that thought. Today, my first grader developed fever and the school nurse called me during a marathon session of grading final exams and writing report cards (thinking ahead to the moment I can focus on my writing during summer break). So, a day where “teacher” and “writer” were to be at the top of the list, I am “mom” instead.

      But the end result is that I now sit at my kitchen table listening to “Over the Rainbow” (he’s watching The Wizard of Oz) and suddenly the potential for an hour of writing has materialized…

  22. Family. Love. Experiences.
    From that.

  23. Fuck no. I’m going to go cut my wrists now.

  24. I wish.
    When it does, everyone around me is miserable.
    When it doesn’t, I’m miserable.

  25. just spent the last fifty minutes (and $140) discussing this issue with my therapist. How climbing out of bed in the morning feels like the beginning of a long exercise in atonement for all the shit (writing) I didn’t do the day before, all of the things I did do (long runs on bad knees, push-ups, AP history outlines, wedding thank you notes for my favorite babysitter, etc.) to delude myself that it’s ok I didn’t write as long or as well as I should have, and the fucked up things I too often do (booze, dope, Klonopin) to forget the failures. He (my therapist) told me to put a scrap of paper in one pocket that says, I am a speck of dust, and one in the other pocket that says, the universe was created for me, and to work towards holding both thoughts in my head at once.

    • From the sidelines: you seem to be a very busy mote of dust. To paraphrase Jimi, just don’t get ‘swept up in the broken pieces of yesterday’. Unless, of course, a good story is there!

    • Your therapist — totally worth the $140! That is so profound and awesome.

  26. Daydreaming comes first downtime thought free associative and wandering.

  27. No. I’ve made peace with that fact and do the best I can. I’m stubborn.

  28. Very, very rarely.

  29. My family now realizes that after 20 years of being there for everyone but my self that my writing and my novel now comes first. Any man that wants to date me has to realize this and the guy I’m kinda sweet on now read my book and said he love it and want to talk more about it.

  30. Asking for yourself is much riskier than asking for someone else, maybe because it feels crappy to have your own request rejected while having someone else’s rejected just makes you indignant. But when you do ask for yourself, bluntly (which is really more a demand than an ask) you get a rush that can become addictive. I just wish that when I did this asking/demanding (I’m going away for a week because I need to get some work done), I didn’t feel like such a bitch.

  31. I live in Canada. Nobody cuts in line.

    But I have practiced telling people off, on occasion, just so I know I can do it. Some guy was bugging me in a restaurant and I actually stood up. Like, what? Like a man. I stood up like a man. Like I was implying I would throw a punch. I’ve never punched anything in my life. But it felt good to imply I might. Notice there’s no word or expression for a woman doing that?

    He thought I was standing up to get the owner/manager. Even he didn’t understand how close he was to getting my sissy punch right in the face.

    • Now your talkin’. Chances are, he had never been challenged so he didn’t know he was doing wrong. And a woman on top of it! Good job. In the future, if it gets a little more heated than that, go for the nuts. Seriously, that puts an end to a lot of things, very quickly. If you can;t get there, the nose. Always the nose Don’t know why the nose is so sensitive, but it is. It probably has to do with the fact that we are oxygen center creatures. Anyway, good job!

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