• 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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Another One Bites the Dust

Free fall. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Finishing something and getting first reads. I’ve given my script to the young turk from my film class, my literary agent, my writing partner and bff, and a former film executive. What’s that on my shirt? Oh, did I throw up? What is the biggest fear? It sucks. Duh. But more than that it’s the strong possibility that people will see things about me that are humiliating and that I thought I had successfully concealed or transformed. I think that’s why I was drawn to poetry as a depressed teenager. I thought that writing things that people couldn’t understand would protect me and allow me to express yourself at the same time.

How do you handle it?

53 Responses

  1. How do I handle it? Probably not that well. For me, a little bit free fall, a little bit hide and seek.

  2. AA
    lots of therapy
    and god.

  3. I rarely, no…never write anything personal. The most I get is embarrassed because I write things that are very sappy.

  4. I cross my fingers and hope no one notices what a dork I am. If I think it may help I’ll cross my eyes too, but that generally causes more pain than it’s worth. With each new read I’m fairly certain, but not positive, that the reader will see right through me and their positive estimation of me will dip drastically.

    Medication helps.

  5. I think it’s more seek and hide…

  6. I never handle it as well as I think I will. I keep waiting to develop that “thick skin” – but if I had a really thick skin I don’t think I’d be the same type of writer, or person, that I am. But I am getting better at taking it…at least a little bit. I think.

  7. Xanax seems to be the consensus.

  8. I know what you mean. Today we were featured and reviewed by a book blogger. The great news was that she loved it. It’s nice to have your writing validated.

    You put your heart out there, hoping others will love it, but expecting them to crush it. Today it was loved, what will tomorrow bring?

  9. hahahahaha. I write memoir. So, if I’m doing it right (a big if), then there is no “successfully concealing.”

    How I handle it? Not well. But better than I’d handle not doing it.

  10. “This is what happened, but what if it happened like this?”

  11. Beta readers are wonderful (I could stop there) opportunities to take a breather after something is “finished.”

    I can’t mess with it until they offer their opinions–it’s a rule–so I start something else or get caught up on my backlog of Mock the Week.

    But i take care to send everything to my Dad first, because he loves everything I write even if he doesn’t understand a word. I need to hear that just once before the weak spots are tallied.

  12. I tell the truth. If I have to tell it by telling a lie, I’ll do it that way. But it’s still the truth.

    All our secrets are the same. We try to hide things from each other, revelations of how we are writhing little worms of appetite, avarice, gluttony, vanity, betrayal, cowardice–but we’re all the same. I look at any one of you and I see all your secrets, all your shames, all the untrue lies you tell yourselves, we all tell ourselves–they’re my secrets, too. You have my heart, all of you (even you, Jeff)–all of us–every last one of us crazy monkeys who’s ever been, all of us marooned here in this insanely confusing, ultimately insufficient existence as though we were sentenced for a crime we did not know we had committed.

    We’re all the same. This cannot be stressed strongly enough. Every one of us exists inside every other one of us. No writer has anything to gain by hiding, by trying to deny the oft-dismal realities of our being in this world, of the shared sins and frailties that bind us together more surely and more tightly than language, color, or creed.

    • It’s all a gift, hands out, palms up. A gift.

    • Tetman, I was going to tell you, I tuned into yesterday’s post late, just to see what you had to say, and I’m glad I did. You’ve got some beautiful things to say. But I do not agree that we are all the same. We are not all the same. I don’t exist inside anyone else, nor they in me.

      • Albert Camus was killed in a car wreck 52 years ago todayIn his 1957 Nobel acceptance speech he said, “what has supported me through all my life, even in the most contrary circumstances: the idea that I have of my art and of the role of the writer…. Often he who has chosen the fate of the artist because he felt himself to be different soon realizes that he can maintain neither his art nor his difference unless he admits that he is like the others. The artist forges himself to the others, midway between the beauty he cannot do without and the community he cannot tear himself away from. That is why true artists scorn nothing: they are obliged to understand rather than to judge.”

      • Thanks, CJ. I was waiting for someone to offer a good rebuttal, and there couldn’t have been a better one. Still, without scorning, and always trying to understand rather than judge, I don’t think we’re all the same. Great food for thought, though.

      • I don’t think we are all the either Kyler. I think we’re all human, horrible and wonderful enough.

      • “Every man and every woman is a star.”
        – Aleister Crowley
        The Book of the Law

    • Actually, I think the only way to handle it is to remind yourself that people are different with different tastes. If someone doesn’t like your work, it’s not your work that’s lousy necessarily. Look at Atwood’s latest story in The New Yorker. If that had turned up on my desk I would have said no thank you, but all that means is I’m not an Atwood fan. When someone doesn’t like my stuff I try to tell myself, well, that’s their taste.

  13. I handle it by giving those who compliment my writing twice as much weight. Then I tell myself that the readers who “don’t get it” are just inferior. (Wow, did I really just say that out loud?)

  14. You finished the fucker??? Well, a hearty congratulations!

    I hate finishing stuff. Hate it. Once it’s done, then it can no longer be a work-in-progress that sucks now, but will much, much better once it’s done.

    • Yeah, I’m with you. I wouldn’t be able to get past the fact that i’d finished it. Anyway there’s nothing to do but breathe in and out and prepare for greatness.

      • It’s existential i think. Finishing is a metaphor for death. As long as the project is in progress possibilities abound. Once you hand it off (I just had an image of a balloon drifting up up and away, out of reach) it’s no longer “of you”…it’s left your galaxy. Which makes letting go so terribly fraught. Even of something that was created for the singular purpose of taking flight.

  15. I’ve reached the point where I don’t care about exposure or humiliation, or secrets coming to light. Sure I borrow from my own life and others too. And I worry – my God! – when I show work.
    But it has to be done. There’s no point in clinging to those tear-soaked pages.

  16. Ah, I definitely feel you on this one. I have a writerly-circle-of-trust, and I always start at the outermost edges, with people who live in different states that I could reasonably convince to “act like that never happened” if the writing turns out to be horrible. Then, if the feedback is good, I slowly move closer and closer to home.

    But I definitely understand. Total panic. But I figure if it’s awful, then that’s just one more thing I’ve survived, and on to the next!

    My WIP is a memoir, so my disclaimer is always “it’s okay to tell me this sucks, I would much rather be writing a novel.”

    Anyways, good luck!

  17. I need to get out more. I have no one to share my writing with except my mother and one dear friend who I suspect is lying to me. Well, he’s busy. And what I write isn’t his thing. And vice versa. So it’s okay.

  18. Good for you, Betsy! If you need another reader, I’m all yours. I come with references and a signed affidavit not to bullshit.

  19. I don’t sign affadavits, but I do bullshit.
    Everything I ever wrote was a lie, even this.
    It’s never a negative when someone sees through to you… it takes one to know one.

    • Has anyone ever told you you’re like a fucking wedgie that won’t go away? Dennis Leary’s “Asshole” also comes to mind. The sad part is that you’re probably a nice guy. You just haven’t learned how to play with others.

      • WET, is this where I’m supposed to respond to you with something I think is witty and mean too ?
        Sorry, but I have no intention of engaging in a battle of wits with an unarmed person.
        The fact that you did not understand my post doesn’t seem a good enough reason to write what you wrote, and perhaps you should think things through before posting. What if I’d been someone with severe depression at a bad time in my life?
        Luckily I’m not, but maybe you should be more careful, you could hurt somebody.
        What You’re Thinking, believe it or not, is not what everybody’s thinking. Some people’s brains may be working better than yours at the moment, and some of them will have understood me.

      • I found truth and comfort in harryipants words.

  20. I don’t. I finish it, throw it in the drawer, and move on to the next one. I believe the technical term for someone like that is crazy-ass wimp but I can’t be sure as I’ve never sought a diagnosis. Good Luck Betsy! Wishing you great reviews all around!

  21. Just say fuck it and try not to let the fear take hold. Remind myself that if the writers I most admire would have behaved like the pansy I feel like, my life would be a whole lot emptier now.

    This writing business isn’t for chumps.

  22. I would listen to what they say, but don’t snatch up your eraser at the first peep from one of them. When a church appoints a building committee, rarely do the appointees come back and say the current building is fine. If they tell you something that rings true to you, great. At some point you have to own what you’ve put down; you have to say this is it, this is good and this is where I’ll make my bed.

  23. All I can say is that if Vivian were being beheaded by that particularly guillotine, she’d at least enjoy the little leaf carvings.

  24. How do I handle fear?

    1. Fall down the well and see what happens.
    2. Fall down the well and claw back out.
    3. Do laundry.

  25. Score: Fall Down=100; Get Back Up=101

  26. Losing your head actually deepens the writing so don’t be afraid

  27. Congratulations on finishing…I bet it’s brilliant. How can it not be? This is you we are talking about. Pat yourself on the back and have a stiff drink, you are a marvel.

  28. After a public hazing from a gang of pre-teenagers loudly exclaiming that I was “so ugly”, getting less-than-hoped-for comments on my manuscript is quite manageable. It’s the silence that would worry me.

  29. I rely on the occasional moment of courage in which I throw the work out there with some semblance of bravado. Afterward I try to reel it back in, but of course by then it’s too late. Like having sex with a man and realizing at the halfway point that you’d really rather not. What can you do but lie there and take it?

  30. It’s terrible when there’s a malfunction as you’re waiting for the blade to drop, unless the executioner steps in to take a look just as the weight of the blade and gravity’s pull conspire to unsnarl the kink in the rope that was holding up the works and the execution has to be postponed until the guillotine can be repaired and another member of the Hangman’s Guild can be found. With cool detachment, although not of the anticipated kind, you notice the clouds and sky, the sun and disappointed faces, mouth open with no sounds, a silent breeze. Alive? Still breathing? And suddenly your comrades appear, swinging on ropes attached to the heavens, landing like flying gargoyles on the stage. They kill the mayor, disembowel the priest and release you from the shackles to ride away on your trusty steed named Reprieve. You live to love and fight another day, words left behind, but still okay.

  31. I handle it by checking my email every ten minutes, wondering what these people are doing that could possibly curl their toes more than reading my masterpiece.

  32. Congratulations on finishing Betsy! In my corner of the world finishing is its own special hell. Giving a script to readers is lovely! I tell those wonderful souls who indulge me that if they don’t respond I will be paranoid they hate me and to fucking lie to me if they hate it. My last caveat is that if they say they like I won’t believe them. Once we’ve got that all out of the way I trust I will get great feedback. Which try on for size and thusly strengthen my editorial instincts. Always the result is I discover I am far, far from finished. Then I sulk. A very dirty martini helps with that. Also yoga if I’m feeling pretentious or constructive.

  33. In the midst of my writerly self-absorption, I forgot the most important thing: Congrats!

  34. Did any of them tell you how to fix it? Not, what’s wrong with it, but what to do to make it acceptable. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. did all right being himself in most of his novels. Why can’t you?


  35. First, like the others, congratulations!

    For your question, I don’t know if I can handle it. I’m about to throw up as I type this thinking about all the drafts of that piss poor query letter I’ve written and have yet to send out. Can we say BARF.

  36. Exposure. I studied theater before I got serious about writing and figured out (in the process of being a crap actor), that unless you are wide open to making a total fool of yourself, you are not worth watching. At least in writing, nobody is actually right there in the room with you to to whisper, laugh in the worst possible places, or walk out. They may be doing it, but they are elsewhere.

  37. That’s what it is. Writing reveals us, whether we are good writers and visionary or bad writers and boring thinkers. But you have to put it out there, anyway. At worst, you’ll get a few other boring thinkers reading your work 🙂

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