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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 TOok A Wrong Turn ANd I Just Kept Going

Manuscript fatigue. It’s a fairly widespread condition. Symptoms: you can’t look at your manuscript anymore. You start to hate it, turn on it, call it names such as “that fucking manuscript,” “that motherfuckingcocksucking manuscript,” “my shit eating novel,” or  “my douchy poem.” You start to cut like a depressed high school girl. You gain or lose five or ten pounds. You snap at the dry cleaner. You scream your answers at an automated voice system. You forget to take your meds or you take them twice. You can’t read anything. You alienate the people you love the most. You alienate people you barely know. You’re terrified if you leave it you’ll never go back. You fear if you go back you’ll make it worse. Why are you looking at me? I’m not a doctor.

How do you deal?

53 Responses

  1. Fuck all those fucking writers who lose 10 pounds whenever they have manuscript fatigue. I’d be Leanne Rimes right now.

  2. My coping skills include manual labor like mixing up my own laundry detergent, vacuuming baseboards, mainlining political TV, licking the brownie batter out of the bowl and not answering the phone. I can’t even put the jump drive containing that motherfucking manuscript into the USB for fear I might turn to stone.

  3. lose weight? that’s an option?

    over the holidays, i was stuck on a project and avoided it by shopping for gifts. i was checking out at a small boutique filled with women and their adult-age daughters buying ridiculously expensive costume jewelry and linen scarves to wrap endlessly around their necks. an older woman was waiting to have her purchase gift wrapped and commenting on all the toys she’d have to wrap that santa was leaving under the tree. i mistakenly spoke up and said, “santa doesn’t wrap the gifts he leaves under our tree.”
    her response: “that sounds like a lazy santa.”
    i SNAPPED.
    “lazy? more like a green santa. imagine how much waste is involved in all that wrapping paper. our santa is efficient, not lazy. the last thing he is is lazy.”
    she took her wrapped gift and left without saying anything else.
    i dropped my head in shame and politely declined the shop girl’s free gift wrap offer. i spent all day obsessing over my mini-breakdown toward the woman in the white sweatshirt with the snowman embroidered on it (as if that wasn’t a good enough reason to scold her).
    it was that word.
    lazy writer. lazy. lazy. lazy. it’s still bothering me. and that project is still undone.

    • Ha. Lazy Santa.

    • Our Santa gifts just had a big red bow. By the way a warning to all Americans who would dare to wear a white sweatshirt with embroidered snowman or anything reeking of the Christmas holiday, you will become a laughing stock in France. It is one of those things they laugh at most regarding Americans.

    • Now, I’m intrigued with this older woman. If ever there was a master of passive vitriol, she gets my vote. How do these people feel justified to comment in that way? Undoubtedly she has a roster of such nuggets, composed as she observes the world from her silent sphere of distain and kept at the ready. Lazy indeed – I see she wasn’t hand weaving or sewing HER overly-wrapped gifts.

      Make her a wretched character in a WIP and enjoy the revenge!

    • Screw her, Amy. How in hell can you be judgmental over freaking wrapping paper? If she really felt the sweatshirt she wouldn’t have said that. Bitch.

      I snapped this morning. A letter came from the school informing me I have a fat kid. It was complete with helpful info on how to feed my kids. I went ballistic. The kid is skinny but muscular. The doctor told me she’s definitely at a healthy weight. I told the nurse my kids eat much better than the garbage they pass off as food in the school cafeteria and I take great offense to the state government sticking its nose into my business as a parent. Hypocrites send out shit like this than serve hot dogs for lunch and have vending machines spitting out Pepsi and chips. My kids eat organic whole foods, hike, ski, and take 2-3 mile walks with me all the time. WTF?

      I guess Betsy has my answer to her question. I project my anger onto other causes. Watch out Director of State Dept of Public Health for Schools. You chose the wrong time to piss me off.

      • THAT is maddening.

        “hey, you don’t mind if we feed your kids ketchup and call it a fresh side of veggies do you? oh, by the way, make sure you keep them extra active in the evenings since that ketchup has enough calories to last them through the week and we’re cutting all extra-circular sports. okay? great, thanks. also, we’ll be instituting mandatory assessment tests to determine which students deserve more money and resources than others. but, again, don’t fret, it’s not like there’s a whole hell of a lot of money to going around for education anyway.”

        (i would be going ballistic as well and deem this a rational response vs. my over-reaction to some woman i didn’t even know who i let get the best of me.)

      • I just realized both of us had our mothering skills questioned. That makes it extra irksome. For the record, Santa never wrapped gifts in our house or any of the neighbors’ when I was growing up. And I promise, it’s one of the few things I didn’t suffer from in my adult life.

    • Seriously, WHY would Santa wrap presents? He’s pretty busy that night. None of his presents were ever wrapped in our house either, that’s how the kids knew they were from Santa. Always suspect a grown woman in a white Santa sweatshirt.

  4. Read, run, meet my friends at a bar. Rinse and repeat until I’ve forgotten how much I hate the manuscript.

  5. Either take a quick break or work on something else until it starts to come out again. Then of course their is the #1 way to deal – draft beer by the pitcher or martinis.

  6. I’m going to google now to see if I can find a free trial of voice recognition software.

  7. i usually turn on the TV and compared to the shit that’s on the airwaves, i don’t feel so badly about myself anymore.

  8. Reading other people’s bad books helps. Wine helps. Sometimes I just walk away.

    I write on my blog. Or comment on other people’s blogs. Or both. That doesn’t help, but it fills up my days.

  9. I’m not really answering the question, but tonight, and many nights this year, I’m dog tired of being a MF’ing writer. Why can’t I stop? I shoulda been a librarian, like my mama told me.

  10. YouTube, chocolate, and working on anything else but that *%(&% manuscript.

    Venting on other people’s blogs helps, too . . .

  11. oh my god. this sound horrible. Forget it, man. im goin to throw out my manuscript right now before this happens to me!

  12. I tell everyone I’m working when I’m really lying on the couch watching episode after episode of ER reruns. I know I’ll I have to quit this nonsense by the end of the 5th season because that’s when Dr Ross leaves Carol Hathaway and the show. ER becomes dead to me without George Clooney.

  13. After my sixth rewrite, when I look in the mirror, it’s my grandmother that stares back. The bags, the haggard, evil mouth. Yeah, it pisses me off. Makes me a shitty spouse and really mean mom. I’ve been known to throw dishes in the garbage–in the fucking garbage–when my self-pitying sloth causes a monumental housekeeping backup. I once was in such a foul rage during a period of manuscript-hate that when I couldn’t find marshmallows at the grocery store I cussed at checker when he asked if I found everything I was looking for. Cussed. As in, “No, I did not. Can you just tell me why the fucking marshmallows aren’t with the hot chocolate packets?” Okay, the “fucking” part was said under my breath, barely a whisper, but the checker’s eyes went all psycho-customer-alert, and I was too embarrassed to go back to the store until it closed for remodeling and opened again, with all new cashiers.

  14. I’m so numbed, stunned, and undone, I just plod on, like a soldier on a forced march through knee-deep mud. It’s either that or fall down and be shot as a deserter.

  15. You all are leaving me in stictches! Stitches!

  16. I’m so tired of trying to train this dog. He does not respond to my commands or pleas, but goes wherever he wants. There are dead spots in the house because of his lying there, emitting foul stenches with innocent eyes. “Who me?” he asks, as if it is someone else who has brought Death and Dishonor into my life.

    There are vast empty fields before me, cluttered with flat words and dissipated cliches. Nothing attracts my eye, nothing pleases my ear, nothing has taste or humor or meaning. It is a battlefield of ennui that lies in front of me, lies and deceits and shallow babbling.

    I have no hope and no future. I cannot quit, because I can do nothing else, but everything I do is meaningless and without end. I look to the sides and even turn around to see if there is something else – anything else, really – that might be better than this. Something that can save me, give me joy again.

    But I return to my state of MS, to empty hallways and trackless passages, cutting and trimming and shaping, hoping that at some point I will be able to push it back, satisfied. It might not be perfect. It surely won’t be beautiful. But it will be done.

    That is my hope, and that is what keeps me going.

  17. Yeah, I turn into a bitchface too. A skinny screaming bitchface. I see the horror in my kids’ faces (is it fear?) then I take my shame to the pool and do endless laps.

  18. How do you deal? You can escape and you can face. Actually, eventually you have to face. It catches up with you. So there is no choice. You face. Or you face.

    And you can always listen to Staying Alive by the Bee Gees.

  19. One time my son was emptying the recyclable trash and noticed I had thrown my entire manuscript away. It was just one of those days. I told him not to panic, that it was an earlier print than the one I was working on just then, but really I was lying. I just couldn’t look at it anymore. Book dysmorphia.

  20. How did you know? For one week, I haven’t gone near my WIP. I don’t even know what’s happening in the story! So now I have to go back and read the damn thing just to catch up and fuck if I don’t read slower than congealed honey eking out of a plastic bottle.

    I’m dealing by imitating Steve Jobs’, now infamous, distortion reality. I’m not ignoring my MS. Oh, no. It’s aging, like a gorgeous Stilton needs to do. I honestly didn’t mean to stop but now that I have I’ve got to keep face. I alternate between mantras. I’m not a quitter. I think I can. I’m not a quitter. I think I can.

    It helps to have small children. When push comes to shove, I can just blame them.

  21. Give the beast to beta readers. Hide in a corner and read obsessively to distract my mind from the thing. Start something new.
    And never ever ever start believing my own fears might be true.

  22. Go sailing. Work on the boat. Write, revise, write. Sail again. Maybe do a little carving. Suck it up and write on.

  23. Less and less I’m questioning my right to write. My lack of ability, my intelligence. It’s pointless and drags me further down into the bog. I just take a break, reassess and keep moving forward. The good news is I generally learn something in the valleys.

  24. Well, I sure don’t check out the Christian blogs. I nearly got sucked into one a few minutes ago by following the seductive promise of “Crack Bark,” but as soon as I saw the J word I had to leave. No recipe is worth it. I’d rather read strings of cuss words any day.

    • …jesus, that’s spooky… if i ever heard a crack bark, i’d figure either i was having an acid flashback–and i’d wonder about that, since the acid i dropped was never that good–or i’d stumbled upon some fearsome new std set to put an end to the human race.

  25. After reading Betsy’s question and the responses, I posted my reply. That was about an hour ago. Then the dog and I sniffed around the bayou, where the moon made the water twinkle and wink, and the wind sushed the trees. The needle rush swayed, reminding me of a choir swaying down the aisle of a long gone church.

    There was peace there, and nothing else. Words and work will come today, and the couch will have to get along without me.

    All that in an hour.

  26. During those times I watch a lot of reality TV.

  27. There must be something terribly wrong with me because I think this post is hysterical! I can’t stop laughing long enough to give much of a response. Except to say my shit eating novel has driven me there and back and there again.

  28. Because I meditate (expertly) and go to therapy (excessively) and have aged to a certain degree (won’t mention it), I have come to see it’s part of my cycle of creativity. I did a blog post on it a few months ago. http://unmappedcountry.blogspot.com/2011/06/giant-elephant-in-room_24.html

  29. I work on something else like another story for my blog.

  30. Consider yourselves lucky. You can throw a fiction manuscript away, burn it, ignore it, finish it or change subjects and create a new one.
    My WIP is a memoir that’s stuck in my head whether I want it or not, lurking around every corner. I start the car… (I remember the ride)… the phone rings… (I recall the call)… I break a glass nicking my finger… (I feel the blood)… the smell of the Band-Aid… (reminds me of restricted visitation)… I watch CSI… (so unrealistic)… Gray’s Anatomy… (they’d all be fired)… network news… (makes me angry).
    So I write. Maybe someday, after I’m gone, my kids will find my manuscript. They can hire a real writer to add the pretty prose.

  31. Stiff upper lip, man. That’s what my military father taught me.
    And yes, I’m a girl.

  32. By knowing that some punk out there is working harder than I am.

  33. This is brilliant.

    Also, that’s the point in time where I hide the matches, lest I make manuscript flambe. 😉

  34. So true. Been there all too often….

    However, my problem with this particular manuscript: I’m so obsessed with it that I’ve been revising ad infinitum. Looks like a different type of syndrome, yeah?

  35. By the way, the only way I can deal with what you’re talking about is to put the manuscript away for at least 2 weeks or get a new boyfriend :).

  36. I have revised and revised and revised, and while I’m almost done with my latest revision, everytime I do this – go through the entire MS and smooth it out – I see more and more that is rough and unconnected. I find characters who change names and motivations, circumstance in the beginning that foreshadow later events that never happen – and I think, “This was written, right? By an actual human being and not a literary bot?”

    It’s good to know it’s not just me. But how do they – the successful, published, HAPPY writers – do it? They make it look as if the first draft had perhaps a few typos. Did they also re-do the damned thing so many times that they hated every single letter?

  37. What do I do when manuscript fatigue strikes?


    (send emails to people I haven’t seen for 5 or more years, read words in books written by others, sleep, listen to the radio, hoover carpets, watch tv documentaries, let the inner voice riot, eat, ……….)

  38. You just reminded me to take my birth control. It’s cool if I take it with wine, right? Cool.

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