• 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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Didn’t Know How Lost I Was Until I Found You

I got back on the pony this weekend. I realize why I had been avoiding it. Writing is freaking hard. Ha ha! There’s a news flash for you. Two things always happen to me when I sit down to write: I either have to go to the bathroom or I nod out. Why is it so hard? I always hated it when people said relationships were hard, that you had to work at them. Why? I sort of feel the same when people complain about writing. It’s not as hard as laying brick. I’ve also believed that the prolific among us, the truly great, don’t suffer. It comes to them, they go to it. But of course, many great writers suffer horribly. What am I trying to say? What am I getting at? If writing is so hard why do you stick with it? Why not garden, or cook, or soak in a tub? What’s with this shit?

What happens when you sit down to write?

41 Responses

  1. I can psyche myself out of writing, but I pretty much always feel like an idiot afterwards.

    I posted on this a couple of weeks ago: http://devilinmydreams.blogspot.com/2011/06/no-guts-no-glory.html

    Writing is hard – but it is practically NEVER boring!

  2. “What happens when you sit down to write?”

    I usually sort of slide in sideways, or come in around the back way. But it can depend on what I’m writing. This thing here, I just got out of the shower and I sat down to make a note in the piece I’ve been working on–and had spent three hours working on before I showered–then I emailed a copy to my offsite backup and decided to drop into Betsy’s place and see what was up with “Dig a Hole… [etc.]” when I saw the new thread. As already established, I’m a junkie for this blog so I whipped out my works and got cooking.

    But with things like the piece I’ve been working on, or most of my creative writing, I start with some reading of some this or that: maybe the news, the weather, someone else’s creation, or all of the above–and why is this blog telling me I spellt “else’s” wrong?–and now it’s telling me I spellt “spellt” wrong–oh, that’s because I did–it’s spelt “spelt”–which it’s still telling me is wrong, but that can’t be right, because I just checked, and not only is “spelt” spelt right, as a form of “spelled,” but it’s also a kind of wheat which is rather tasty but takes a little while to cook…

    (See the above for an example of what happens to me–sometimes–when I sit down to write.)

  3. The same things I think about when I run:

    1. This warmup 1/2 mile sucks.
    2. This first mile sucks.
    3. Wow, I’m finally hitting some stride. I can breathe. Uncomfortably.
    4. What should I make for dinner? But we had beef yesterday. Do we have ice cream? Is the bread moldy?
    5. I wonder what Bobbi is having for lunch. I wish I lived in France.
    6. I’m tired of this. How much farther? I think I can make it to that landmark.
    7. I need check the other blogs to see who’s responded to the responses. I wonder if this messes up their stats?
    8. Maybe tuna.
    9. I’m tired.
    10. My butt hurts.
    11. I can slow down now.
    12. That was hard, but I’m glad I did it. I feel good.

    • I forgot the part where I start to feel strong, like I’m damned good at this — between 8 and 9. Then how I wake up the next day and I’m right back to #1.

      • You crack me up, Teri. I am about to go out for a run because I can’t get started writing today and I know that if I go for a run, I will figure out how to start this new chapter. My list of things I think about when I run looks a hell of a lot like yours, except that from mile 2-5, I work out the details of my writing.

        Okay, and sometimes the dinner plans, but mostly it’s the writing. And I’m off…

  4. I feel afraid. And then I write down a couple of things I’m pretty sure I can do, and write for 45 minutes, the theory being that anyone can work for 45 minutes. Then I take a 15 minute non-internet break — water, bathroom, go and find better shoes or socks, stack my books a different way — and get back to it. I use Freedom (that program that turns off the internet for whatever amount of time you tell it to). This seems to work.

  5. I don’t sit down (or curl up) until an idea has hit me and I know where to run. Usually I feel like I’ve hit the open road with a full tank of gas.

  6. i try to sit down at the same time each day and usually start writing with a 5 minute prompt. cue music. then i open current file and begin.

  7. My family descends upon me like locusts and the cat throws up on the carpet.

    But after bedtime and clean-up, on good days, I can fall into the hole in the paper and stay there until my butt falls asleep or the rest of me does.

    On bad days . . . there are a lot of bathroom trips and more than one rebooting to bypass my Freedom program. . . .

  8. Writing was easy until my agent gave me a 8/4 deadline. Now it’s like rolling boulders uphill.

    Somehow, I managed to procrastinate by writing a new blog post instead of writing what’s due in three short weeks.

    Huh. Go figure.

  9. Sometimes it’s pure despair, sometimes not. But it always keeps me from thinking about my other problems.

    In any case, I think you should put “What’s with this shit?” on a t-shirt.

  10. I walk for exercise. Every day I go on a 45-60 minute walk. I do a lot of story plotting during that time. I figure out what’s going to happen next, what the characters are thinking, what they’re going to say.

    I sit at the computer and it’s like “Uh….”

    I sometimes wish I could just download what’s in my brain right to the computer.

  11. I tweeted about this earlier today:

    When writing, I know the completed book exists somewhere in time. I need to reach through time/space, grasp the best version.

    Looking at the act of novel writing this way helps me. But at times it’s still so s-l-o-o-o-w.

  12. When I sit down to write I mostly avoid writing. I creep on facebook, or cry over a dropped follower on twitter, or just cry in general. Then I stop being a baby and get down to business. Then I feel radiant.

  13. Writing. . . I either can or I can’t and I don’t know the difference. Well, no, actually I do. And I could but now I can’t. As you can see. But part of one of them is in my mind all the time these past few days so i think I’m gonna.

    This reminds me of something I felt when I was younger and it wasn’t about writing.

  14. The thing is, is all those things you have written. Writing is a nightmare, literally. I wish I could give myself away,and I would if the world were as innocent as I am, test me, I dare you. but then again, I would rather you didn’t. Writing? If you are a serious thinker, it’s not the biggest worry on your plate. Betsy would like it to be because she feeds her family selling books. Writing. Yikes. I do have a great book going, but it is more what writing is now, and not an emotional porno. Let’s see if I can pull it off. And if you got that. that is the gist of the whole thing. God help you people. Sure as fuck, no one else is gonna. And a small modern ballad:

    • I’m sorry, as always, when I sit down to write, I come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter what I write because everyone I have known or know now is living through it. When I tell them I am going to write a story about my life with them, they rightly consider me a clown. I am a mirror that they don’t want to see. And I get that. Why would they? Why would I? Ah, Shakespeare, why would I? And then some.

  15. It really depends on what I’m working on. If I’m writing about my childhood, then, when I sit down, it’s as if my many layers are all stripped away and I can finally breathe. Suddenly all the extraneous bullshit disappears and I am alone with just me. It’s a comfortable place, one that doesn’t come often enough, but one that I look forward to visiting whenever I’m able.

  16. Sometimes I have an idea and I just work on that, charge right into it and let the chips fall where they may. Of course, a day later (or a week. Or a month…) the words are like fermented garbage and I wonder what I was thinking in the first place. Other days nothing comes and I go out walking/skiing/driving and let my thoughts wander. I bought a little voice recorder so I can recite all the wonderful thoughts boomeranging in my head. And it’s safer than trying to transcribe thoughts onto paper while driving, although it’s hard to find the right tiny button on the voice recorder and I’m always afraid I’ll enter the wrong program and record some ridiculous words over my daughter and I singing Froggy Went A Courting. Uh huh.

    ps–delightful picture to see first thing in the morning.

  17. I despair. I rejoice. I despair. Then I get to that place where my editor/writing my nobel laureate speech/thinking about dinner part of my brain turns off and the words pour onto the page. Then I despair, rejoice, and despair.

  18. There are days when it flows. Lately, though, the days are coming on too often when I can’t figure out where the hell to begin, where I’m going and how I’m getting there. Knowing I couldn’t find my writerly ass with both hands in the plotless dark with a searchlight dead on it. Maybe it would help if I shoved a roman candle up there and lit it. It would certainly start some fireworks, but like I said, I can’t find my friggin’ ass with both hands, etc. Now where the hell did I put that match?

  19. It’s not the writing that’s hard, its the sitting down. Soft ass, hard chair, etc.

  20. Funny you should ask Betsy. It is Monday at 10:45 am and instead of writing I have rewired a floor lamp, reorganized book shelves, been on a laundry spree and made order from the chaos of my knitting needles. When I am on a rampage such as this I know I am over-procrastinating. Always feels better knowing I’m not alone in these fits and bursts of overdrive that give us the illusion of production. Folding sheets is good. Folding sheets while working my writing over in my head is better. Using something about the sheets in my writing is a triple play. Excuses, euphemisms, metaphors and other tricks in a writer’s arsenal create the facade of a writer at work. The Invisble door that shows the world that “yes, we are writing therefore working. Here’s my desk, chair, computer, pad and pen and reference books. Now go away so I can create.”

    And now, I have spent a good 15 minutes reading your post and writing this comment.

  21. It’s the thought of typing that slows me down. I can think a piece through in my mind but that doesn’t get it on paper. Typing is the tedious part of the job. All those thoughts which flow so easily into my mind…will I lose any of them when I recall them to paper? Will I survive the challenge of the distractions that always arise? It’s that need for instant gratification that stymies me. Ah, confession is so good for the soul. Thank you!

  22. If I’m picking up a thread, I dive right in. If I’m starting a chapter, I usually sit for 10-20 minutes thinking of reasons to get up – it’s not happening today, it’s too early, coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, maybe I should just walk the dog… But then, the words come and I fight the voice in my head that says that those are not the right words, that this is not the right thing to do, that I hate books that do this thing or that thing; that this is cheap, that everyone will laugh at me. And then that voice dulls too, and then there are no more voices, just the work happening.

  23. I begin. The rub is the “sitting down” part. Everything conspires to distract it seems. But when I do sit down, I immediately enter the world of my book/play/musical and am shocked when my husband comes home from his job… . The day has fled. It takes me a while to readjust to the reality that is not writing. How about you?

    P.S. I noticed that veronicavera is still typing. I did that. I even typed my master’s thesis–a novel–and it had to be perfect. I switched to a computer the next month. I find that the mind can and will adapt to whatever technology, or lack thereof, one uses with no difficulty after a breaking in period. I switch between paper/pen/recorder/and computer without a problem now. It’s just a matter of giving it and yourself some time to learn to think as you type. I believe it was Marilyn Bergman who said “the words lie on the tip of the notes.” If I’m writing prose, the words appear at the touch of the keys…. Now, the matter of getting the right words is a totally different matter.

  24. in the upstairs room at my mother-in-law’s beach place….the one where she usually resides, but since she’s in Vermont moving her daughter, I’m squatting. The husband and kids are on the porch playing a game of Monopoly, and I’m supposed to be up here writing. In preparation for that task I tried out every chair in every bedroom of the house to see which one sat best. Finally settled on the upholstered rocker in the crib room, managed to drag it to the door but need a second pair of hands to fit it through. So back to the chair search. Have tried two, both straight-backed dining chairs, not meant for the act of creation. So now I’m debating between sitting on the bed where I’ll be lulled back to sleep and making a second attempt to move the sweet seat. I am the Lance Armstrong, doping and all, of avoidance behavior.

  25. Writing is the good part of my day, so regardless of the difficulties: outlining a chapter or succinctly describing a scene, I’m willing to take the challenge. Why should every task be just plug-and-play? Granted, don’t make me have to format the operation of my lap top each morning, or assemble a bed frame each night, but there is a certain satisfaction in acknowledging the Process (or maybe I need a more diverse social life).

  26. Sometimes it feels okay while doing, sometime terrible, very occasionally wonderful it but I almost always feel better after I do it and I can go off into my day knowing that I’ve done something to help myself get closer to my dream; which is not small thing. It’s like working out that way.

  27. I love rewriting, editing because something is on the page already. Something to work with rather than a scary hole. It’s the blank screen that sends me to the fridge for a Coke.

  28. Laying brick is fairly easy, btw. You don’t have to imagine each brick.

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