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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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I Hate Myself For Loving You

In a recent New York Magazine story about Michael Lewis called “It’s Good to Be Michael Lewis,” he is quoted  as saying, “When I sit down to write, I like to think everybody’s going to love me,” he adds. “Or at least I don’t think anybody’s going to hate me. It’s pronoia, right, is that the word? Everybody’s out to love me, not everybody’s out to hate me? I think basically that way as I move through the world.”

I think you all know me well enough to know where this is going. ANd by the way, I love Michael Lewis. If I were a boy scout, I’d wear a Michael Lewis badge.

Here’s the point: when I sit down to write, I don’t care who hates me because no one can do a number on me better than I can do on myself. No one could ever, ever loathe me as much as I loathe myself. Not even close.  Anything you can hate, I can hate better. And I do not think pronoia is a word.

What do you like to think when you sit down to write?

59 Responses

  1. i try to remember to thank myself. sitting down to write is half the battle. when the tormentor starts up, i remind myself that i can always go back and edit. shuts the voice up right quick.

  2. I don’t think. I write. Well, no. My fingers write and I’m not sure that has much to do with me, which is why I don’t think. Unless I have a mind in my fingers, and given the most recent research and theories about the mind-body connection, I guess it’s entirely possible that when I write with my fingers, I’m actually thinking.

    But that doesn’t feel right.

    I don’t think when I write.

  3. “When I finish this fucking thing, it’d better sell.”

  4. I don’t know that there is a simple, this-always-works answer, but a fairly successful practice I seem to have fallen into is this: Begin w/ longhand, an organic process to script word-pictures; transfer to computer screen whose stark black- on-white calligraphy provides some clarity and order, then allow to sit overnight, let the thoughts weave one in to another.
    Attacking the page in the new dawn provides a new sense of seeing. I find if the lede emerges, the rest seems to flow somewhat effortlessly. Of course, you live w/ the constant fear that the lede may never come.

  5. “I hope my in-laws don’t read this.”

  6. “Grass looks a little long…”

  7. What I think when I sit down to write: I don’t. I immediately log in to Assbook. Thinking finished.

    And for the record:


    I ❤ Michael Lewis. At first I confused him with Richard Lewis, but realized that Richard Lewis would never be a pronoiac. Doesn't matter; I ❤ them both.

  8. Every time I write, well everything I write is written for one person so I don’t think about “everyone”. That one person changes with the project but it’s always, “what’s s/he gonna think!” And that is pretty inspiring to keep at it so I have new material for whomever that person happens to be at the moment. (If this made any sense, that’s a victory. I’m half-asleep and on the phone.)

  9. I think: I hope my heart opens enough today.

  10. When I sit down to write, I like to think about what I’m writing.

    And pronoia in psychology is the opposite of paranoia. It comes from a Latin prefix and a Greek root that are hard to translate (ah, the opacity of translation, yes) but could be rendered as “skillfully-minded.”

    But you knew that, right?

  11. Pronoia *is* a word actually. It’s been much promoted by the gonzo astrologer/philosopher Rob Brezsny, whose column has run in West Coast alternative papers for 28 years.

    From Wikipedia: “His work derives its name from the concept of pronoia, a term John Perry Barlow defined as “the suspicion the Universe is a conspiracy on your behalf.””

  12. Live and learn. Thanks for taking the time to explain, though it still sounds more like a men’s hair replacement system to me. Betsy Lerner

    • I wouldn’t sweat it, Betsy. It’s in the same league as Dianetics® and other words that have been trademarked by self-help gurus. If it makes it into the lexicon of the average American I will be very surprised. And annoyed.

      And what does it really mean anyway? It’s just wishful fluff. If the universe is, by definition, a impersonal unity, then how can it conspire, and who the hell is it in conspiracy with? Writing is thinking. Muddled writing means muddled thinking, and vice versa. “Pronoia” is just another way of saying “the universe revolves around me.”

      I don’t think that’s what Lewis really meant; he’s just self-confident and believes he’s loved, and likely it’s true.

  13. First off, I agree with you. That guy’s using positive thinking or something, positive self-talk, or whatever. The fact is, in my opinion, since we’re talking about writing, last time I checked, that graceful sentiment, that self-love. which is actually a rare gift, doesn’t make you a gifted writer. My young brother, the egg kid, wanted to be Luke Skywalker, unfortunately, he ended the dream by throwing himself out of an 8th story window, after years of verbal and emotional abuse, most of which told him he was living in a dream world. I leave you to do the math. And if you can’t, I’ll do it for you: Writing is a game, at this point. At most, it may bring you joy and riches, but you of course are using your fellow man as if they were milk cows and they are too dumb to get your gist, therefore, you must enlighten them. I’m not writing you are wrong, I’m writing that is pathetic; not in the derogatory sense.

    Having written that human, all too human, response, when I sit down to write I know damn well that I can write well but do I do people justice. Do I give them the compassion they deserve. Despite their ignorance and their distaste for me, Me who am only them, in writing.

  14. Depends. When it’s new stuff, I’m thinking, “Wonder what’s going to happen next?” And sometimes, “Yippy Ki Yi Yay!”

    Now that I’m working on the second draft there’s some of that, but also a lot of, “Okay, we gotta get the spam from the can to the plate somewhere in chapter three, ’cause the MC takes a bite in chapter five. I hate $&^%% spam.”

    Sorry. Tough week.

  15. That it is up to me to bring life to these guys. But I am not sure if that is what I “like” to think.

  16. And I totally do not understand “self-loathing”.

    • Count yourself lucky: it is a sorrowful, despairing state of mind, ruled by the cruelest, critical voice in your head. And once unleashed, it stays with you always- maybe not center stage, but there none-the-less: lurking along the edges of doubt or exhaustion, ready to pounce, ready to remind you of your worthlessness. Scaling Everest is easier than suppressing that voice, the voice that only you hear.

  17. “What do you like to think when you sit down to write?”

    No one’s gonna read this so might as well let it rip.

  18. It’s the other stuff I do that triggers that pronoia/paranoia crap, not the writing. My pages are where I go to get away from giving a shit. About anything. But the pages.

    And here’s proof: I have this penchant for creating the unlikeable narrator. Agents have said that, my writers’ group has said that, editors have said that and even my mother has said that. So clearly, I haven’t given enough of a fuck about what people think.

    But I’m a late bloomer, so maybe I’ll grow out of it.

  19. Why doesn’t it look the same on the paper as it does in my head??

  20. I think pronoia is worth my consideration.

  21. “what kinda weird shit is gonna come out today?”

  22. Maybe this bit will make somebody laugh out loud. That’s what I remember and enjoy when I read.

    Congratulations to all the first sentence winners.

  23. Tea too hot. Laundry. Overexplanation? The shitty draft. White space. What will people think? Sleepiness. Urgency. Restlessness. Perfectionist. Tea too cold. The grouchily hopeless fantasticality (that which is unrestrainedly fanciful; extravagance as defined by fellow writer) that is I. In the flesh. In the writerly pillow smothering phase of my career. What was I thinking? And rarely my targeted audience. Stat.

  24. I wonder if the fact that Michael Lewis writes about other people influences this positive attitude? Perhaps that’s the key. Take the spotlight off yourself and you, too, can make millions.

    I write in the wee hours of the morning, before the demands of the day pound me down into the ground. My only thought is, I wish this moment would last forever.

    • Therefore, you are sacrificing your sleep for others and therefore that will make you a good writer? You do see the flaw in your reasoning, right? get some sleep, babe. It will be there in the morning, if it was ever there at all. But what is IT?

  25. I think this is way better than having to do what I used to do. Moving through the world with pronoia is probably not a bad way to roll.

  26. Ah hatefulness! I don’t really do it. I just tinker. The numbness, the nothingness – they usually come around later like uninvited guests.

  27. I can’t read that article you linked to. It’s got Jesus in it. And I never heard of Michael Lewis, but I don’t mind if people make up words as long as they look attractive and spellable, which pronoia does not, plus it’s weird to pronounce. I tried. I hated Pollyanna, too.

  28. What do I think when I sit down to write? From the context of Michael Lewis example, I ass(u)me you mean what people will think of ME when they read what I’ve written as opposed to the words on the page and the story I want to convey. Wow. I don’t think I’ve actually asked this of myself.

    And now I know why.

    As I sit here trying to imagine readers with my novel (with the glorious book jacket to beat all book jackets) thinking of others considering the writer versus the story, it makes me feel exposed. As though I’ve sold my house and the new owners, who are supposed to be checking out the real estate, have chosen instead to sneak a look at me through my bedroom window. And I’m in my underwear! ‘Nuf said.

    As for pronoia, come on people! We are writers. Or readers. Look it up. Where’s your adventure. Definition: it’s the opposite of paranoia – the sneaky suspicion that people are conspiring to help you. Sounds good to me.

  29. When I sit down to write . . . wait a min, it’s been so damn long.

  30. When I sit down to write, I like to think, Self, just get some words down and worry about fixing them up later.

    So I don’t get too wound up about perfection to put down anything. Nothing wigs me out like a blank screen.

    Pretty boring, what I like to think, but it seems to do the trick.

  31. That I’m a fucking genius and everybody is going to enjoy reading my work;
    That I suck and the paper I waste was better off as a tree.

  32. After I get through removing the dog’s paw from the keyboard, wrestling with my brain’s “this is a piece of shit,” and then, “this is the best thing ever written,” I keep writing for a while, removing the dog’s paw from the keyboard, resisting the urge to go into the kitchen to see if there’s something good to eat, removing the dog’s paw from the keyboard, typing something that feels profound, removing the dog’s paw from the keyboard, thinking about the “other things” I’m supposed to be doing, removing the dog’s paw from the keyboard, and, finally, I think I’m done for now; I get up, throw some clothes on, and take the dogs for several miles of hiking so that I won’t have to keep removing paws from my keyboard.

  33. That when it’s going well that what I’m writing is pretty good. That the story will take my readers on a nice ride and I will write some well-turned sentences that I like to think will elevate me in the genre. I picture one of my readers as they come to the end, nodding approvingly, and looking forward to the next. I guess it’s my positive reinforcement at work. I’m not into self-flagelation when it comes to writing. I leave that for the rest of my life.

  34. I think, “Don’t give up your day job…”
    “At this rate I’ll be in Shady Acres playing Bingo and gumming mashed potatoes before I finish the first draft…”
    “I gotta get this bra off…”

  35. What’s Betsy got to say today?

  36. “Why don’t these damn books write themselves?”

  37. I think, “here I am, playing with myself again. How sad.” And “Man, I might as well put my hands in my pants, for all this adds up to.” But then I get so into it I stop thinking. Ha.

  38. “I’m going to need another pseudonym.”

  39. I pretty much imagine the classmate in my freshman writing class who, right before I had to read out loud my story about a first sexual encounter, asked over and over in a very loud voice, “Who wrote the fuck story?” “Who wrote the fuck story?”

  40. I like to think I can finish what I’ve started.

  41. I think about how much I hate to write. Words fail me or I fail them. The certain insatiable result makes me hate it more. I keep thinking I have something to say, after all. By the way, I am a lousy typist.

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