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    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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Hit Me Like a Ray of Sun

When I worked as the corporate file coordinator at Morgan Stanley, I picked up a few business tips and truisms. One was that you had to give any new venture at least five years before pulling the plug. I think there is an analogy with writing, though it may be more like ten years. Or twenty. And worse, there may be no plug. I think it’s good to have five year goals. I think it’s good to keep track of progress or lack thereof so that you don’t gaslight yourself about whether or not you’re making progress. It’s very easy to lose track and fail to see the strides you do make.

Do you have a five year plan or what would it be? Mine is losing AND keeping off 20 pounds, learning how to drive stick, and selling a god damn screenplay  and then deciding what I really want to do is direct.

33 Responses

  1. in five years, I want to be selling enough of my work so I can go to a part-time library gig and have more time to write and deal with a fourteen year old, ’cause I’m pretty certain my older daughter’s adolescence is gonna be epic.

  2. I used to think in five year plans and then time started quickening. My current plan is to publish two more books and grow better tomatoes.

  3. My five in five.
    1 Be alive
    2 Retire
    3 Write
    4 Promote my books
    5 Be the next Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes

  4. I make plans all the time, but even when I write them down, I forget them. I’m never aware of any progress I make, but I’m acutely aware of how much time I waste. I have one goal: Finish my rough draft. I was supposed to finish it during this NaNo, but I’ve been distracted with paying work. I’m freelance, so when I get a job that pays, I have to put that first. My creativity is thwarted by my conscientiousness.

  5. There is a difference between wishing and planning. I am in the midst of revising a four-year-old manuscript. My plan is to improve the writing, but it doesn’t extend beyond writing the next sentence. I can’t worry about five years or the future of publishing or any of that shit. I’m trying to write the next sentence.

  6. FTF, sell it, start another. Publish essays in magazines people actually read. Travel to places that make me uncomfortable. Learn enough Italian to get by. Shift focus from how much I weigh to how fit I feel. Get myself a a grandbaby to love on.

    • Where will you go? For travel?

      • South Africa, India, Japan, China? A friend in India says he’ll take me out to ride an elephant, but that we’ll need to be careful of the tigers. Which makes me want to stay home on my patio with the gate closed.

      • A good friend of mine is living in India with her family right now. She is fearless, navigating cities on her own, hiking jungles, white water rafting. I kind of feel like nothing bad will happen to her because she can’t conceive such a concept. I’m happy and envious of her freedom to enjoy life to the fullest.

  7. Yes. Driving a stick is a skill all women (and men) should possess. I mean, what if you get stuck in the middle of France and the only other one who could drive the Fiat was a drunk? Seriously. It happened, and I was able to step in and keep us from flying off a cliff.

    There is no five year plan for me. I’m a day-to-day girl, that is when I’m not Gaslighting myself about all kinds of things, including writing.

    I wish msb had power, though…

    • I’ll bet she’d even settle for gas lights.

    • Thanks, girls. It definitely feels like we’re the forgotten ones. It’s hard to complain, what with so many people having lost so much, but it’s getting harder and harder to maintain an air of civility. I started crying in the supermarket today, watching people I know piling high their carts with fresh produce and meat. The good news is that through this ordeal I’ve become an instant coffee drinker. The bad news is that we’re going to evacuate again tomorrow. There’s no way we can deal with another storm, not without power and the temps are getting lower and lower. It’s all about keeping my puppies safe.

      No five year plan for me at the moment. I’m living day to day.

  8. Well, I’ll probably still be writing, for better or worse. I’ve managed to go 57 years without holding a full time year round job, but that’s getting harder and harder to do as I approach retirement age(and I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not). Hopefully I’ll still be happily married, although the previous sentence might provide a clue in regards to the likelihood of that. My daughter will be fast approaching 12. If the number of boyfriends she already has is any indication, I’ll have to learn to sleep with one eye open. I’m slowing down on the pace of getting things done around the old homestead and we have a parcel of land I plan on building another house on, so I’ll need to budget my time wisely. In five years I should have the guitar mastered, so mandolin might be next on the list (that’s a joke — the freakin’ fretboard still baffles me at times). Hopefully a potent cloud of smoke won’t scramble my brain completely. Did I mention I’ll probably still be writing?

    Notes on how to drive a stick: Think sex. Ease up gently on the clutch instead of just ramming it down and pulling up fast. You’ll have to do more than one thing at a time, so reverse the pattern with the gas pedal — let up on the gas as you depress the clutch, then slowly accelerate as your left foot comes off the clutch pedal. Listen to the purr of the engine to know when to shift gears. Don’t force it, things work better when they’re ready. Work the clutch and brake pedals simultaneously if you have to stop suddenly to avoid stalling out completely. Get back into the rythym, hit the open road and let it ride. And remember, every car is different.

  9. top of the five-year plan is get out of debt.

    as for writing, joseph campbell said that whenever young students would come to him and ask him if they should be a writer, campbell would ask them, are you prepared to labor at it for ten years with no success and no one paying attention to what you write? if so, then be a writer.

    and further as to writing, to being a writer, i have heard gordon lish say, it costs you nothing less than your life.

    nothing less than your life.

    ftf, then, and move on to the next.

  10. I have met some pretty hefty goals in the past year – finished degree, stuck w/job until all bonuses paid out, finished 1st ms, acquired agent. Check, check checkeroo.

    To J.D.’s point above, my latest goal might be more like a wish vs tangible. In my corp job, we used the S.M.A.R.T. method for establishing goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Hm. I can be Specific – a publishing contract – but the rest of it is out of my hands.

    Other things I’d like to do 1)learn another language, 2) learn to play violin (I have one I purchased about 5 yrs ago that is gathering dust), and perhaps run another marathon. All of those fall well below my capacity to focus on them until the first wishful goal is met. I guess that means they may never happen.

    I wish MSB had power too.

  11. Hmmm…in five years my oldest will be in her first year of college, so it’s a little scary to think about. But my goal is to have published a few articles and/or essays somewhere, to have my current work finished and out there (accepted would be nice, but I’ll be happy with finished) and starting on my PhD.

  12. The husband and I have been scheduling minute details for years, planning for a life that would start after one more step, reaching one more goal. We moved so many times we had everything but a home; we hardly had each other. This summer, we took a leap of faith and walked away from a deal that would make us rich. We said no. And it’s ok – more than ok. I thought I would be scared, but I am euphoric with possibility. I used to say I wrote, but didn’t really. There was nothing to say. Now, I write for hours every day, and I believe my words. The apartment is filled with sketches, the desk with my husband’s new books. Idealist suits me well and is enough for now.

  13. Before me is a beckoning black abyss.

    I know how to drive stick. It is very safe, a god send when you go into a curve too fast.

  14. Hmm, I never thought of the five-year thing in terms of writing (okay, in terms of anything), but maybe I will as I’m coming up on my 30th birthday this week. (It didn’t happen before 30, Betsy–should I do the samurai suicide thing?)

    I remember being asked for in a newspaper interview what my five-year plan was. I made something up pretty quickly, and pretty well if I do say so myself. Felt good for the duration of the interview–after which I’m sure I forgot. The parts I do remember didn’t happen, and it’s been about five years since then.

  15. I am currently 3 years in to a 5 year plan I made in 2009. After reading this post I just reviewed those goals that span 12 different domains in life and can say that, yes, there has been definite progress in almost all of them–certainly on the writing front. I’m glad I wrote those down, it reminds me that, while yes, I am traveling on a glacier right now, that glacier is indeed moving every year.

    –Thanks for the reminder Betsy, it’s too easy for a girl to get herself down.

  16. After watching one member of my family after another die young, I pretty much decided that I am going to keep pushing against whatever is holding me back and rise, rise, rise. Yes, it’s hard to be over fifty and just starting a writing career. Yes, it’s hard to see all those younger thirty-somethings doing book signings and being celebrity guests at conferences. The only way for me to get there is to keep going. And if I ever need inspiration to remind me that my struggle is worth it, I need only remember what my brother said to me shortly before his death. I asked him how things were going and he said, “Not good. I feel awful and I can barely even paint anymore. But I’m happy just to be above ground instead of underneath it.” We both laughed. I returned to grad school a couple years after he died. His instructions: Live your life!

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