• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You’ll Forget the Sun In His Jealous Sky

Would you die if you did not write? Would you brawl, scrawl obscenities on subway walls, would you stink up the room? What would you tell yourself every Sunday when the clothes tumbled out of the dryer that you briefly believed life was good, that making gardens and meals with herbs was good, that driving up to the window at McDonalds and ordering a Blizzard was good. How can possibly live your shitty life, your wonderful life, your tiny notations in a foreign hand. Writers are like you and me: they fight for mother’s silver, they get new tires, they cancel their subscription to Vanity Fair. I felt that way when I was young. Those absurd poems were like a long stick that pulled me from the center of the lake to a wobbly raft. Of course, you hold on. Of course you cover your body. Those notebooks  you carried with everywhere and the words that filled them. They way you set yourself apart, above. Sitting at a counter as if you were alone, as if the little show fooled anyone. And when you quit?  You didn’t die.  DIdn’t dig your own grave. Taps wasn’t  heard. The sky didn’t turn  purple. The yellow fields didn’t turn to gold.

Did you ever stop writing?

48 Responses

  1. Someday you are going to publish a selection of these wonderful posts of yours–I just know it.

  2. I stopped writing ten years ago to pursue a career. I thought I would at least go insane, but I didn’t. Life did go on, and the feeling of loss eventually dulled into forgetfulness. Then I noticed, in my business correspondence, little bits of prose that shaped it to the point that others asked for my help composing their correspondence. Now I am back to writing outside of business, and it is not filling a huge hole in my soul or completing me. It just feels right, like sleeping in on Sunday morning feels right, and I am having fun with it.

    Thanks for The Forest for the Trees, by the way – very helpful! Love the blog as well!

  3. The me that doesn’t write can get lost for hours at Target. Especially the kitchen gadget aisle. No death, not really. Just a sort of white noise, like the way the tv used to sound when you fell asleep in front of it and woke up at 2 a.m.

  4. I didn’t know it when it happened, but I quit a year ago. It wasn’t premeditated, I just stopped. Not even a blog post. Last thing I wrote was a query letter. Prior to that I was on fire, averaging a story a month in various lit mags and completing a really great novel that I still believe in. I had to work outside the home briefly. Then I lost my rhythm. I am creative other ways and have completed many different forms of art, yet I can’t get it back that thing that was most important to me. Every day I yearn. I need something. I just don’t know what. I need to reach that wobbly raft.

  5. I stop writing, then I start up again. I’ve gotten to the point where either way feels fine. I think that might be the mellowing effect of age.

  6. I stop all the time. Almost every day sometimes. Which means I never stop. I started writing on 1-25-75, the night of the day I got married. I couldn’t sleep. We were in a hotel in Paris, TX, on our way to my new husband’s jazz gig in Pittsburgh. Three a.m., he was fast asleep, my cat was trapped in the bathroom because he kept waking the new H up. He never forgave me for that. The cat, I mean.

    I pulled out the journal I bought the day before when I should have been finishing my wedding dress. I wrote, and cried on the pages, because I was married, because it was too soon to be married. Because I wanted to be alone to write. And I couldn’t live without him.

    Yesterday I wrote. Today I write. Tomorrow I will write. How else does anyone ever figure anything out?

  7. Yeah, I stopped writing when my freshman English professor told me I was an intelligent girl who could do great things if I would just get my head out of the clouds. It opened my time for more serious pursuits of self destruction.

    I crashed back into the page 20 years later when the docs started testing my daughter for blood, bone, and other malignancies. I wrote in the dark of midnight until snot ran down my chin and my eyes were too swollen to see, not daring to stop for a tissue.

  8. Occasionally, real life gets so much in the way that I stop writing intermittently. I always come back to it.

    If I stopped forever? Surely, I wouldn’t die. But I might want to.

  9. No.

  10. When I was in my 20’s and back in NYC trying to make it as an actress, I worked as a waitress in a famous writer hang out. There was a young man who would come in during almost every shift of mine and pull out one of those black journals with blank unlined pages. He’d order a coffee and start scribbling away. Occasionally he would look up and our eyes would meet. It seemed, in my tiny brain, that when he saw me a connection had been made in his writing and I felt so alive, like I mattered beyond the ordinary server that I was. We became intimate and shortly afterward he confided in me that he was going to be kicked out of his studio for failure to pay the past few month’s rent. If that happened, he would have to pack it in and go back to the farm he grew up on. The injustice of that possibility took complete hold of me and, without conferring with anyone, gave him all of my earnings. I think I had saved a little over a thousand dollars by then. He promised he’d pay me back and I believed him.*

    I understand this need to keep writing. If I were rich, I’d bank-role every last one of you.

    *Say what you will. It’s the way I roll.

  11. Well, I brawl and scrawl obscenities, but we don’t have subways, so, well, and I sometimes stink up a room, and once told a neighbor, in front of others, that he fucked chickens. I do most of the other stuff you mentioned, and still write.

    Sometimes I think about stepping back, and ask the “what then” question, and never have an answer. Things happen. This blog happens, and I stay hooked.

    I don’t know what you put in your pipe, Betsy, but the smoke gives a wondrous high.

  12. I think about quitting all the time, leading a normal life, getting sleep, being there in full-volume for my family instead of a tired, watered-down version. Then, I find myself typing as ten, eleven, midnight passes.
    It’d be easier not to write, but then I’d never know what might be possible and it’s the possibility that keeps me going. What’s the point otherwise?

    • But you would not get anymore sleep nor be there full-volume — all those sentences would still be up there, driving you mad. You think in stories.

      No, the grass would not be greener at all over that fence.

  13. When my girls were little I had to folder my tear-sheets, turn off the computer and spitting and sputtering rise to the surface of the real world. I became a full-time employee and life became chaos. For a little over fifteen years I spent my time living with my family not apart writing about them.
    Once back in with both feet I can’t help but wonder where I would be if I had not stepped back from the edge of the platform years ago. Regret…sometimes, am I sorry I stopped, hell no, just think what I would have missed.
    Funny how thoughts parallel; I just posted about this, or am I reaching for something which is not there.

  14. Once I knew this guy who knew a guy who said he had a friend who lost his right hand in some kind of industrial accident. The specifics are vague. So the guy learned to write with his left hand. But than that one fell off from gonnorhea (don’t ask). So he taught himself to write with his right foot. Diabetes claimed that one. He wrote with the other foot. One day he was hopping along and stepped in dogshit, slid on his ass and got his foot stuck in a sewer grate. We’re talking a hard luck sonuvabitch here. That foot was mangled and useless. Wrote with a pencil in his mouth until he rolled over wrong on his bed of nails and got lockjaw. Tried putting the pencil up his nose but developed chronic sinusitis. Finally he stuck the pencil up his ass and my friend’s friend read some of his stuff and said, “Man, can that asshole write!”

    I haven’t stopped writing, either.

  15. I’m definitely considering quitting my industry interaction for a while because it really did threaten my writing. I don’t like the scene anymore, so I’m going quiet, back to my roots of literary journals & obscure small presses. A contest or two. Let the fiction languish at the black-hole agent’s office. Maybe she’ll get a bite. Maybe not. I don’t care. I just want to write.

    The thing is, this decision, this state of industry limbo, feels damn good. It’s helping my writing, which is never at risk. Ever.

    • If you have the time, watch this:
      http://m.youtube.com/?reason=8&rdm=4994#/watch?v=WBNHGZ7WxeI&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DWBNHGZ7WxeI

      22 years later and his words still resonate within me.

      • Wow! Thanks for this. It’s amazing.

        BTW: You, msb, are the reason I made this decision. You once wrote here about your box of photos & writing and how it was enough; that your kids could deal with it (publish stuff) someday, if they want. I wrote back about my writing trunk full of stories and how I wanted it to be enough, too.

        Well, now it is. Thanks for that, as well.

      • I remember what you wrote and I was touched by it. For me, there is no greater gift than to be a positive influence on someone. Thank you for making my day.

      • I had the time, I watched and I wish I had heard those words a lifetime ago. If there ever was a sentiment about life and politics and self which should go viral that is it.
        Thanks MSB.
        I’m telling my daughters about it now. I’m hoping they can stop their noise of their lives long enough to listen.

  16. Yes–and then I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started again.

  17. “Did you ever stop writing?”

    Not much, but some. There was a time, long ago, when I was so deeply immersed in my life–that of a pot-smoking, acid-dropping fuck-around cocktail slinger in a gay disco–that I chose to live that life too fully even to write–not even a poem–for a thousand fuzzy hungover days and a thousand glittering amplified nights. But even then, the whole time I was there, I was under deep cover, gathering material in the form of memories with every intention to write it out someday.

    I have long thought that for me to quit writing would be for me to die. I don’t think I can quit writing any more than I can quit breathing, no matter how fed up I may become with the state of publishing or of the world at large.

    But I will say this: at first glance, I took those nibs to be an array of HEAT rounds, possibly for RPG launchers. Turns out they’re what they are, reminding me that the pen is mightier than the sword, or so it has been said.

  18. Once, about sixteen years ago, I decided i was done writing What was the point and I’d rather eat worms.

    The sky didn’t fall and life went on. But something must have changed, because a few months alter, my husband finally took a pen and a legal pad, shoved them at me and said, “For God’s sake, just write something!

    So I did. Haven’t stopped since.

  19. It’s been approximately three weeks since I stopped. I’m doing beautifully, but I recognize I had 30 years of writing behind me, and there were some successes during those years. Undoubtedly helpful in this transition.

    I know what’s next, and it’s every bit as exciting to me as writing was.
    (I’m opening an intuitive/psychic consulting practice, to help women in transition.)

    I will NEVER STOP READING, HOWEVER, and if any writers out there want support or advice or ANYTHING, give me a shout.

  20. Sometimes I think that if I did I would finally relax, and suddenly have the thing to write I’ve been waiting for.

    Turns out to be a great way to not quit, for good or ill.

  21. Not possible. What would I do with all those floating sentences I write down on the back of grocery receipts?

    And those are some beautiful nibs.

  22. Tose are beautiful nibs, Teri. I’m embarrased to say that when I first glanced at that picture, I saw the one on the far left, and for a moment thought it was an RPG round. It’s better to recognize them as nibs, though being downrange of either can be risky business.

  23. Haven’t started.

  24. Not yet, but writing feels fragile to me and temporary, and I’ve quit so many other things that seemed to matter at the time. Or I may quit my husband for being so aggressively uninterested in the workings of my mind, or become bitter and prune-mouthed when I finally write my masterpiece and find that no one wants it.

    Writing requires more stamina than I may in fact possess. For now it’s a day at a time, and if the morning offers up a strand of words, I will take it and be grateful.

  25. I pretty much stopped for eight months recently. I didn’t die. I did a lot of things I hadn’t had time to do. But I never forgot the sun in his jealous sky. Life’s good when I’m not writing. It’s immeasurably better when I’m writing.

    Last night in the middle of a dream not about writing but after I read this post, Betsy’s voice came into the dream and said: tell me how to sell your book.

  26. I did take a ten year break from writing. I’d written a bunch of scenes in my early 20s, but nothing ever took shape and I got so pissed I just stopped. And here I am ten years later, picking it up again. Same ship, but a different and better me at the helm.

  27. My daughters don’t care about my silver. I wonder what will become of it.

  28. I did stop writing for a long time. Just how much I need to write became apparent to me a week ago when I had a mastectomy. There were things happening around me that I didn’t want to forget and I learned that it is possible to type with the non dominant hand with one finger in the notes app on my iphone so that I could capture what was happening. It hurt like hell – who knew the muscles on your right side are in play when you type left handed? I did it anyway because that’s how much I need to write.

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