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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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It Doesn’t Show Signs of Stopping

Please welcome  our resident flaneur and bon vivant, author the forthcoming illustrated travel memoir, Le Road Trip, our own VIVIAN SWIFT in tonight’s guest posted series, “How A Writer Survives the Holiday.”

How this writer gets through the holidays.

After 20 years of writing hundreds of freelance magazine articles and two travel memoirs, I got my first full-time writer job this year. Regular hours, regular paycheck, full medical benefits, all in return for about 1200 PR words a day. I’m the only writer in an office of 110 people. I sit in a cubicle in the Collections dept. because there isn’t anyplace else to put me. It’s a noisy department. People are on the phone all day, or they are venting very personal feelings about zits and cold sores and the latest outrage in the office (somebody stole the Toys for Tots box right out of the lobby last week). Or they are watching You Tube videos while making bird calls. Really. There’s this one guy who makes piercing bird calls to goose the unsuspecting ladies in the department. It’s his “thing”, making the ladies giggle, like his thing of threatening his debtors with the info that he’s a very important person who almost knows Donald Trump personally.

I’m a professional writer. You might think I’m slumming it, sitting in the Collections Dept. with a guy who impersonates a screech owl all day, but I actually have it pretty good. I’ve seen the non-existent Help Wanted ads for Writers. I’ve seen the sales figures for my non-vampire/no dead dogs book. I’ve seen the going rates for what they call a magazine these days. Oh yes, I’m a writer who has “made it”.

Which is why Betsy has asked me to write about how I, Professional Writer, gets through the holidays.

I drink. I drink almost anything, as long as it’s a vodka tonic and not beer or martinis. I never developed a taste for beer because I spent the first 30 years of my life trying my hardest to be French and beer just didn’t fit in with my ambitions to be mistaken for a Parisienne, even when I worked in a beer factory in the suburbs of Philadelphia. However, I did develop a huge appetite for martinis. Enormous. I love gin. Don’t get me started.

But I discovered, in 2003, that gin was not good for my writing. I gave up martinis so I could finally write that book I’d been meaning to write for about ten years.

Giving up gin worked. I wrote my book. So I don’t go near martinis anymore.

I’ve recently finished my second book, to be published in 2012. To get that book done, I had to give up my daily blog. I only post on Fridays now.

I want to write a third book, but I’m having trouble managing my time what with my new, spectacular Professional Writing career going so strong. So this holiday season, as I pound down my restorative Saturday night vodka tonic, I am asking myself, “What can I give up in 2012 so I can get that next book written?”

Those two episodes of Judge Judy at 10 each night? My lunch hour nap? That cute guy from Occupy Wall Street?

Betsy always ends her posts with a question, so my question is, What’s the worth of your book as measured by what you had to sacrifice to get it written? What part of your life did you have to get rid of to make room for the Muse?

Yeah. That’s right. I called it the Muse.

45 Responses

  1. I could have written this myself, except that I have only one book under my belt. Everything else—from the new full-time professional writing gig in a cubicle to the drinking—is me. If I had time, I’d drink some more. I work for a diet company with lost of people who are skinny. I am fat.

    If I quit my job, I think my muse would move back in. But she’d have to pay rent.

  2. I pretty much gave up television. And most of my friends. And being a pot-head.

    Funny how those all sort of went together.

  3. In a round about way I also gave up Martinis. You see, I gave up a regular pay cheque/check which means I can’t afford the gin for the martinis or the vodka for the tonic. So I’m down to the tonic or soda water. Ah, the sacrifice one makes for one’s art!

    Everyone wants to know what you give up for, okay I’ll go along with it, ‘the muse’. Truthfully, I don’t feel like I’m giving up anything. I’m doing what I want. Sounds hokey but it’s true. Okay, maybe the lack of gin and tonic stings a bit, but that’s the extent of my suffering.

  4. I had a great muse named Pip for about three weeks this summer, but I think he got eaten by a fisher cat. On the up side, my husband, who does double duty as my best editor, was allergic to Pip the Muse, so tit for cat.

  5. Good question. Must I give up the men in my life, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, to be published? I am not sure it is worth it. Great food for thought!

  6. I made a lot of sacrifices to get my book written–my social life and my income are the two biggest that come to mind. For the next one, I’ve given up the steady job I had, and will definitely be giving up my social life again. Not that it has recovered yet from the first book.

    I don’t think anyone who really has a choice writes books.

  7. I gave up reading books about how to be a writer. I own 34 such books and that’s minus 8 of the favorites I gave away last week.

    I like to watch shows about diet and exercise because it’s so much easier than dieting and exercising. Maybe one day I’ll be able to give those up, too.

  8. Television. Sleep. Well-balanced meals. My mother-in-law’s respect.

  9. I let you know as soon as I FTF, but Facebook is certain to be number one. I’ve already cut back by ninety percent.

  10. *I’ll let you know, etc.

  11. What a great question – to write I think a lot of people try to cram it in with everything in their lives that they already do. I like the idea of giving something up and making room for the writing.

  12. When my son graduated from H.S., I matriculated out of the uber-tasking focus of single-parenthood – and discovered just how much discretionary time exists when one is not car pooling, preparing lunches, attending school events and monitoring homework. Time I now use for writing, joining a writing group and learning more about the literary world. I am grateful.

  13. You mean i have to give something up to meet the Muse? Now they tell me.

  14. Luckily, I can’t have kids, so that saves me some time. My husband broke the tv six months ago and although I could fix it, I choose not to. More time for writing. My elderly mother lives up the road and recently accused me of being a vampire, so I’ll probably have to start spending more time with her, but we vamps are pretty good at multi-tasking so maybe I can write and listen to the latest gossip about her love life. Hell, it might make me a better writer! Senile mother as muse…

  15. I gave up seeing friends. I stayed home mosts evenings and weekends with husband, who also works at home.

    Now that book is mostly done, I am once again doing lunch and hikes and traveling across country to see old college friends and childhood buddies.

    I had no idea how much I missed being with people. Not sure I’ll make that particular sacrifice again.

    But if I don’t I might have to give up “House,” “The Big C,” “Nurse Jackie,” “The United States of Tara” and all my other imaginary friends.

  16. Hey Vivian, good to see you. Enjoyed your post. I’m here on vacation with a toothache and I have to give up drinking because of the medication. Can you imagine not drinking on vacation? Well, the pharmacist said I could have 2 wines and I just had my second. I’m going to be very good and stick to it. But I would never give up drinking (or smoking) when I’m writing. My life has a way of clearing itself when I’m ready to write, and this has happened recently, so that I’ll be ready to work seriously on my new novel in January. When I do that, that’s all I do, and it looks like I’ll have the space and time to do it. Congrats on the writing success!

  17. I’m never going to give up piano to spend more time with the Muse, much easier to be borderline anti-social and forget the drink. I also give up housework and food shopping to keep on track. This foggy countryside is perfect for that.
    It all sounds rather saintly but it ain’t.

  18. Well, Vivian, as you yourself have witnessed, I will NOT give up martinis. But I am giving up being a partner in a business fraught with unbillable hours. Which means I’m going back to being a mere Independent Contractor. A word slut. A hired pen. Whatever. The deal is, if I’m gonna write for the man, I’m gonna make sure the meter’s running every fucking minute.

    Happy New Year!

  19. If you give up too much debauchery, how do you clear your head to write??

  20. I think I’ve given up my blog, too, but (shhh) don’t tell anyone.

  21. I’d say I’ve given up French proficiency. If I’d spent as much time learning French as I did writing about how hard it was to learn, I suspect I’d be fluent by now. Merde.

  22. No more wrier’s workshops or groups, no more books and mags on “How to…..”. No book yet, but 50+/- articles published, and Tour de Frank continues.

    What’s more important is what I’ve gained, and I bargained well.

  23. I read no books with animals in them. If I see a dog or cat character, I stop right there. They always get killed as foreshadowing.

    Well, I give Stephanie Plum a pass. She’s very protective of Rex the gerbil. Or hamster, or whatever he is.

  24. No more writing that cheesy holiday snooze-letter. God, what a relief! I used the new flip I bought to film my teenage son’s poetry reading to make a sarcastic holiday video instead. Then pressed “Send”.

    Snap on your guest post here, Vivian. Heading for the V8 to color my Stoli right effing now. Happy, happy.

  25. Every time I really bear down on a book, I have to give up the same thing: not writing.

  26. I would have to give up talking about, thinking about, writing about why I’m not writing.

    Is there an App for that?

  27. Never work a job you like; shitty jobs provide better material, anger and frustration. Also, it makes it easier on you when you’re ready to quit. But that’s just me, and it’s 8am and I’m thinking I should not have had that second shot of good Kentucky bourbon last night (that’s how much of a lightweight I am these days). Rough morning. Keep on trucking.
    It’s hard to give up freedom, but when it’s regained I write like a whirling dervish.

    • I should have a truckload of material by now. Just when my blood pressure returns to normal after this morning’s cluster-fuck around the year-end financials, my coworkers decide to serenade me with Rush Limbaugh & Co. In stereo.

      Vivian, if you’re not gonna drink that gin. . . .

  28. I’m planning on giving up my kids very soon… there are four of them, the youngest 18 and going off to college and the oldest 25. I hope that does it so I can finish my first draft. If not, husband and friends are next in that order…

  29. I gave up wallowing in worry, regrets and the inability to change. That dazed, paralyzed feeling when life knocks you on your arse. Depending on others to fill me up. Obsessive housecleaning, or rather thinking about obsessive housecleaning. Maybe we eat beans more often.

    Happy Winter Solstice, Vivian! May your intuition and creativity burn bright.

  30. My social life has pretty much dimmed to a pale flame–writing for a living and writing a novel means spending too much time on my own–but I don’t mind. I think you have to like yourself to spend so much time with yourself. This week, I’ve caught up with those I’ve neglected, cooked a proper meal that took some preparation instead of slinging ingredients together and hoping, shopped in the Arndale Centre–twice, and made long phone calls. It’s just not good enough. I’m missing myself–and writing in my solitary bubble.

  31. i quit volunteering (mostly), only keep up with friends who are real friends, and dropped the acquaintances. btw when did average canadian women adopt the european kiss? fuck that. i grew up in a small town that smelled like cedar wood chips, pot and beer. i don’t blog, only use facebook for purposes of literary networking. tried twitter to see if i can micro-blog. failed.

    life is simpler and more enjoyable.

  32. I didn’t voluntarily give up my job, but when it went away, I found that I had so much more time to write. Frankly, I’d like to give up looking for a job now.

  33. I need to give up the internet. But I am still here.

  34. This is hilarious. I’m not giving up crap, I’ll write on the toilet.

  35. A salary, any outward sign of success, any hope of it–traded financial security for time.

  36. Two people that loved me, at the same time. My sanity, chunks of my health, and a cantankerous inner voice that wakes me with insomniatic (not a word) blatherings and rashes on my cheek no doctor can rid me of. Sometimes I go back, but at least now I have a solid draft. I hope.

  37. Sold my novel this month to Viking. I gave up ambition.
    I made a decision 2-1/2 yrs ago to put aside every other writing task-poetry, plays, the artist-in-residencies which alone took up so much time, and focused on the novel. Only worked my p/t comp job.
    My credit rating sank to an all-time low. There is no social status in being broke and not being able to vacation or lunch regularly w/friends. And only other fiction writers understand working on a novel.
    I didn’t realize how much gratification I got from the flow of acceptances, rejections, difficulties in those other projects.

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