• 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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We Sang Every Song That Driver Knew

Do you ever feel free? I remember writing poetry before I went into the MFA program and that was the last time that I “just wrote.” I wrote whatever I wanted and I didn’t expect to get published, didn’t particularly care, at least not yet and not for a while. I spent more time writing in my diaries than anywhere else. And it was in those diaries that lines took hold, became first lines, became poems. And it was a mess of private associations and agonies. It was all under the cloak of my own darkness. It was a girl whose fingers were blue and flat with the pressure of a ball point pen writing as fast as she could. I would like to get that back.

What part of your writing life do you miss?

32 Responses

  1. I’m not really a “writer”. I consider myself a storyteller. I wish I could just write words and make them beautiful and evocative without having a destination in mind. I’m terrible at journalling.

    I don’t really miss that, because I never had it. But I would like to be able to ramble enchantingly about nothing and everything.

  2. Gosh I miss unravelling a story in my laptop in bed. Just waiting for it to come, not knowing where I will end up. Going to bed excited because I know that the next morning there will be another installment, more surprises, some twists and curves.

    I even had an idea this weekend and don’t know if I’m allowed – time-wise – to start hunting it down.

    Book promotion is turning me into an anxious beast.

  3. I miss waking up at 4am to write as much as I could before I had to go to work in the morning and getting right back at it as soon as I got home. I miss that manic frenzy that accompanies bursts of creativity.

    I haven’t felt that in months.

    Do I ever feel free? Not often. Not nearly enough.

  4. Some time ago I ordered a book on Amazon, written by an old college tutor. When it arrived, I saw her handwriting in the front, a dedication to a friend.

    The last time I saw it was twenty five years ago, when I had just won my scholarship and believed everything was possible.

    That wonderful woman, Julia Briggs, died too young, but everything she meant to me came back when I saw her handwriting. Her belief in me came back in every curve of her pen, and restored my courage.

  5. I miss early morning writing, before I was married, whilst daughters and dog slept, I took a mug of expresso back to bed. Cushioned by pillows and sucking chocolate squares I would write for an uninterrupted two hours. Until bird song cleared away the night air and the spaniel jumped on the bed to let me know he wanted to be let out. How do I carve time like that again, now I share my bed?

  6. Like Judi, I miss the long stretches of time I used to have, though my kids are a fair trade, most of the time.

    Other than that, nothing much has changed, except the feeling that I’m all alone trying to do this ridiculous thing, and I can’t say I miss that at all.

  7. I miss getting up at 5am to write, absorbed in my first novel, writing all day and into the night, running on 5 hrs. of sleep but never tired. I miss going to school, my practicum, getting postive critique and giving it back. I miss that.

  8. I would love to get back to that kind of writing Betsy but unfortunately free time becomes very precious as we get older. When writing becomes a serious endeavor and life fills with family, and responsibilities, free-writing just about disappears. I don’t think it’s the writing you miss; it’s the TIME you had to write like that.

    It’s like having disposable income, extra money to spend on shoes you may have worn only once, or a blouse which still hangs in your closet with the tags on it. As we age, time is no longer disposable. Like Lawrence Block said, “Make Every Word Count.”

    I say, make every moment count, and if you can’t, drink wine, eat rum cake, drink more wine, barf.

  9. “I would like to get that back.”

    Amen. I have to work so much harder to get to what Csikszentmihalyi calls it the state of flow where I can ditch ideals and self-consciousness, just write.

  10. “What part of your writing life do you miss?”

    The ignorance that precedes the anxiety of influence.

    Freedom’s just another word,
    for bein’ ignorant,
    and heedless now of all that’s gone before.
    And writin’ sure was easy, Lord,
    when I didn’t know
    much that had been written in the past,
    and how those long-dead scribes would kick my ass.

  11. Although I wouldn’t want to go through it again, I sometimes miss the passion and angst of a certain period in my life. Writing – journal writing, telling my desperate story to myself, asking the desperate questions – seemed to be the only way to wring the wet mess out of me.

    I wasn’t self-conscious about what I wrote then because I wrote only for me. Eventually even I got sick of myself. I decided it was time to write words for other brains to absorb. Now I often feel self-conscious about what I write. Even in my personal journal.

    Maybe there’s a way to work on changing that though.

  12. But like your picture, freedom is about evolving and anticipating the next stage/phase/wonder can be just as intense and exciting as what came before. And of course loss is a great pen to page motivator.

    Kris has a great recent song, This Old Road: “…traces of a future lost in between the lines”.

  13. I’m loving everything about this post, from your description, Betsy, which reminds me so much of my childhood, writing novel after novel in my bedroom on my dad’s old college typerwriter, to the Kris quotes – the man truly inspires me. Great way to start a Monday, especially since I’m about to turn off my phone and my Internet connection and just write all day!

  14. I used to write late at night, sit down with a pen and yellow legal pad, drunk, stoned, slightly out of my mind. Things poured out and I’d look at it later, pretty raw stuff, kept some, discarded most. I lived alone then, no TV or other forms of entertainment. Now I write in the morning, for some reason it just feels like a better time these days, the earlier the better. Sometimes I miss that midnight rambling, but those late nights made me miss a lot of mornings and all the words and ideas that are floating around at the beginning of the day.

  15. I miss the manic beginnings. My mind manufactures distractions for me and it won’t do that now. I miss that too. Is that where that “Of all the things I’ve won and lost. . .” line comes from?

  16. I miss the creaky, sunlit 1920s apartment, where I lived and wrote alone.

  17. I miss my early writing days without the Internet. Now, there’s too much you’re “supposed” to do. I miss not knowing…

  18. I miss wide-ruled Big Cheifs.

  19. I miss copying song lyrics on wide-ruled paper while listening to the radio and trying to figure out how people wrote stuff like that. I miss the mystery.

    • Keith Richards said this about that in his memoir:

      “Great songs write themselves. You’re just being led by the nose, or the ears. The skill is not to interfere with it too much. Ignore intelligence, ignore everything; just follow it where it takes you.”

  20. I prefer the pages that were full of mistakes that no one saw because the process was totally freeing. When I know the writing if for someone else, I feel responsible for getting it right.

  21. I’ve often thought that the best prose writers are the poets. I resonate to your longing, Betsy. The power and honesty in poetry, experience distilled into essence, the freedom. Today, reading an article about the relationship between Prayer and Poetry, I was reminded that I once used a pen to write. That my fingers were not glued to a keyboard. That silence gave me eyes and beauty gave me ears and suffering. Well, suffering gave me compassion.

  22. I miss the rip of the full page out of the typewriter. Typos and all, a typewritten page felt thrilling and authentic. I miss that.

  23. Do I ever wish I were an amateur? A hobbyist? Sure. I also wish I were shitting in a diaper and eating from a tit.

    Nothing pure is lost. There’s nothing to get back, because that careless masturbatory agony wasn’t freedom, it was incompetence. The exhilarating evocative unraveling flow is crap. Are there pastry chefs who sacralize the faraway days when they poured Prell and OJ and dish detergent into a bowl and declared it pudding? Writing is discipline. I can’t crawl worth shit anymore, either.

    • Yeah, I’m with you on this one. Don’t miss the before days, the whiz through the MFA in two years, the submissions, the dash to the post office to get a ms. postmarked, enough rejections to paper a mansion. Glory is getting the first novel accepted; I’m not looking back except to laugh at my own sincerity. Thank goodness I had it then when I needed it most.

  24. I initially read this as “I also wish I were shitting in a diaper and eating from it.” Two Augusts, 1 Cup.

  25. »I would like to get that back.«

    Yes, but what would you give in exchange?

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