• 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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I Have Visions of Many Things

Do you ever feel like you’re fucking insane with this writing shit? Or totally alone. Or happily alone. Or jerking off more than a teenage boy? Or bff’s with the dental technician because you can’t stop grinding your teeth. Or spending a writing weekend organizing your ribbon box. Or imagining yourself in a three way with the dry cleaner and his pretty wife. How many notebooks have you lost? Filled. Did you drink the Dead Sea? Did you explode a balloon of red blood? Hammer your foot to the floor. Did you cry out in aisle six because you could not find Product 19? Could not name the states and her capitals. Her birds. I watched my wife wipe the table with a sponge and wondered if I still loved her. How many novels stopped dead in their tracks at page 60, 30, 10, 1? How many days do you get to you enjoy all the flaws on your body? What were you doing at sixteen? Making love with boy who wanted to be a writer?  Was that a found poem or a lost cause? Why do you think you’re special? Gifted? Talented? Deluded? Sad? No one gets out alive.  I wish I were here with better news.

37 Responses

  1. You don’t have to be here with any news at all. Just be here as you are. Do you think we come here for the news? That’s not what we come here for. We come here because you’ve made a place worth coming to. That’s something. Not everyone can do that.

  2. “It is difficult to get the news from poems.”

    Oh, but that doll. Right before bed.

    • Yeah, that will keep me up. But at least I won’t be grinding my teeth while I’m awake. At least I hope not. I was unaware of that unpleasant habit until my dentist visit last week.

  3. today i was fretting over arranging the 26 letters i know into any order that actually added something worthwhile to what’s been going on since our laptops were cave walls.

    a friend read blue night in one sitting, and not because she loved it but because you can’t stop reading it. how do you do that? how do you write something that people can’t stop reading regardless of whether or not they love it. (to me, didion’s prose feels like warm faucet water on the back of your hands after scrapping ice off your windshield.)

    while waiting to get my oil changed, I asked the only woman who worked there for a pen (because who the fuck knows where all mine go) so I could underline a passage from Carrie Fisher’s latest. i did it at her counter so i could return the pen and she said, “are you supposed to write in that?” and I said, “yes,” like she was asking me if i wanted some demerol and walked back to my seat.

    i want to write something worthwhile.
    i want to get paid lots of money for it.
    i want to stop wanting this so fucking much.

    five to one, baby, one to five.

    • I tried to use the 2 pens in my purse today. The both bled all over the place, all over me. What’s up with that?

      I was reading Michael Chabon’s Kavalier and Clay on the plane and the man next to me said, “Wow, that’s a fat book. You need a Kindle.” He was trying to help.

      I went to the plane bathroom twice on the 4 hour flight. I walked slowly down the aisles so I could spy on the reading material. All hardback romance and men’s thrillers. A few e-readers. Three Bibles. 3!! And not a literary fiction or nonficton book in sight.

      (I left my bleeding pens in the seat pocket. Seat 11E, American Airlines.)

      • what is up with that (said kenan thompson style, “what up with that? what up with that? who knew, you knew, say what, voodoo”)

        when your helpful row-mate introduced the kindle idea, did you think, “i’m going to write about that somewhere”? i would have. we’re (we=writers) are the only ones who have that–right? the filter through which all experiences must first go through before they’re full processed. the filter that determines whether or not we will write them.

        i love that you used the airplane restroom twice. that feels so indulgent to me (it’s an effed-up leftover thing from childhood). i drove from I90E to georgetown indiana without stopping the car once.

    • Anything someone wants to read is worthwhile, even if that someone is the writer.

      (though I secretly want to write things so cracktastic, sleep deprived people willingly line up for miles to catch glimpses of the cover)

  4. me? i’ve got birds in my eyes.

  5. At eighteen I was in love with a self-defined intello who said I would never write or go to Paris. While on many days I wish I were a nurse or piano player in a sulky bar, I am still writing, still up for the blank page and sickening revisions, on bad days I worry he spoke the gospel truth.

  6. Well I love Mondays because on Mondays four beautiful, hopeful, wistful writers come over to my house, their pages and hearts in hand, and then we get busy tearing their shit to pieces. Nicely, of course. General positive statements first. All that. And these beautiful, hopeful, wistful writers, I love them like a mother. So sometimes I feel I need to warn them about how shitty the world is to beautiful, hopeful, wistful writers. And today was one of those days. It just slipped out–the writing 150K to get 20K good ones. The editors who shit on your “unlovable” characters. The hundreds of close-but-no-penis rejections.

    I blurted it right out, all that negative nay-saying cautiously pessimistic venom–like the impulse, when you can’t find “product 19 in aisle 6” to grab a sales associate by the neck and scream, “So, where the fuck is the stuffing mix in this fucking store?! ‘Cause it’s not in the dressing aisle, and it’s not in prepared foods, where the fuck is it!?”

    But still, those beautiful, hopeful, wistful writers smiled and tucked their pages in their satchels and tiptoed down my steps to their cars to head home and delete and add and refine and create. That’s pretty insane, right? Pretty amazing.

  7. Gosh. Someone got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning!

  8. The first time I made love, the boy…his penis was crooked and he had only one ball. I have felt short-changed ever since.

  9. Since late last week I’ve been in the “whydidIeverthinkIcoulddothisItscrapandnooneistellingme” phase, your post resonates. Except for the blood-filled balloon. That freaked me.
    Hopefully soon I’ll be back to the “omgIwasborntowriteIlovethisooooomuchandIjustknowI’llfindanagentandgetpublished” delusion.


  10. The thing is, you’re not alone. Some of us may look like we’re all put together, signing our names to our just-published-but-already-at-the-top-of-the-New-York-Times-Bestseller list, our perfectly manicured nails gripping the platinum fountain pen left to us by our grandmother who swore it was a gift from Frank Sinatra. Don’t be fooled. We all have our demons. We all have our struggles. Underneath the pretense, we’re all exactly the same.

    • Except for the Frank Sinatra pen and the grandmother who knew him — or was cool enough to fib about it. Want.

      • My grandmother’s sister was like that. I visited her toward the end of her life, when she was bedridden. She had a night drawer that she’d order me over to open. Inside were gaudy rings of all sizes in their respective cases, with lids flipped open like you’d find in a glass case at Fortunoff or, nowadays, Costco. She boasted that “Frank” had given them all to her, at one time or another. I don’t think it was coolness that prompted the fibbing. More like full blown delusion.

    • This is the truth you speak. We are all more alike than not.

    • amen, none of us are unique in this experience.


  11. I keep thinking about Flaubert and his bears. Damn. If he can’t move the stars to pity, what chance do I have of even getting the bears to dance?

  12. Right now, this moment, I believe in the universe. I believe if I look for signs, they’ll be there and that no amount of cynicism can prevent the pain of “It’s good, just not good enough.” So screw the protective defense, I’ll write the best I can and suck it up. Maybe I didn’t need Product 19 anyway because my ass should be home wriiting.

  13. Gee. Once again, I’m out of step: for the first time in two years I’m having a great week (received an award and had an article about my design work published in the local paper and posted on-line), so I apologize for tossing in a bit of giddy glitter. At the moment, this warm notion of maybe-I’m-not-so-worthless-after-all is quite encouraging and has allowed me to consider a different approach to my query letters and the current WIP.

    And these rose-colored sunglasses are helping, too…

    • Let me tell you, at the risk of sounding like a Republican, don’t feel guilty for doing well when others are not.

      Timing matters, though

  14. i am perfectly comfortable with my own voice, odd as it is, and some people get what i am saying. Who else needs to think I’m special? Is there a list?

  15. It was raining every color but blue. The walls were painted black (thank you Benjamin Moore) with one tiny window too high to reach. The light bulb was flickering, all that was left to write on was the last section of toilet paper and that would probably come in handy later. The pen was running dry. Worst of all, a rat had made off with the last piece of stale chocolate. Thinking: there will probably be born a story from this.

  16. Why can’t someone just read this freaking book I’ve written. What’s wrong with the old school fairy tale? And why can’t I write a synopsis? I’d rather grind my eyeballs with a grapefruit spoon than write a stupid synopsis. My characters talk to me in my sleep and I tell them “It’s obviously not your time so go sit in the corner” but they remain… like they bloody know something I don’t.

  17. ALWAYS fucking insane
    Happily alone when writing
    Teeth grinder
    Weekends are spent eating – a lot
    Three ways are over-rated (i just write about them now)
    I have every notebook I’ve ever filled
    I use Dead Sea salts on my feet
    I explode black tar
    Door slammer
    Avoid Target during daylight hours
    I can name most state capitals, I hate birds
    I’ve only put down 2 novels because I just couldn’t
    It’s a love-hate with my body
    At sixteen I was sneaking around with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, smoking, drinking and screwing
    I sleep next to a guy who is a writer
    My poetry is lame
    I’m not special, just human
    My friends are my gifts
    Talent is overated
    I am most definitely deluded
    Prosac helps with the sadness

  18. Ah, Betsy, how did I know this post was coming? Not that I knew, but I’m not surprised. You said you’ve been low. But soon you will be high again, because that’s the way it goes.

    There are people who love you, high or low, and it’s so loving of you to show up here, in your lovely low mood, and give us something of yourself, good news or not. The showing up is everything. You’re teaching me that right now.

    I’ll disagree with Tetman on one thing: everyone CAN do it; that’s the whole mission of being born a human being. We just need to muster the will, and a little skill.

  19. I love your column and how real you are about what is going on inside your life and writing. I’ve been where you are describing and I know that the slumps will end up at highs. I wish we did not have to deal with the valleys, but sometimes our best material comes looking for that elusive product 19, pounding one’s head against a wall, and feeling the angst. Imagine if there were no challenges for our heroines and their heroes? The story would be so bland. Imagine what you will do when you mold these experiences into your stories.

    I am praying for you.

  20. Betsy, I’ve been special all my life, and sure as fuck, I ain’t stoppin’ now. Since I look up to you and your everyday advice, I’m going to disregard this as a bad day. And to be honest with you, I think your husband might have written a sentence in there. If you need me to come over and beat the holy living shit out of him, I will. Contact me Betsy. I’m not kidding. You don’t deserve that. You have too many ass-holes on your neck to deal with yet another. No, way, baby. You let me know.

  21. I may not be able to help you find the Product 19 in aisle six but I can help you name the states and capitals. (click my link)

    We all have our good and bad days. Hang in there and try and keep your chin up.

  22. My books stop dead in their tracks ten days after you finish them.

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