• 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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Don’t Give Yourself Away

At every reading, someone always asks what my process is. First, spend your childhood in a state of terror. Become a chameleon in high school and befriend everyone. Latch on to a creative writing or English teacher. College go underground with your poems. Do not work on the college literary magazine, do not go above 14th Street. Check out the poetry slams at the Nyorican but don’t read your ballad, Calories & Other Counts. Apply to Grad School.  Become utterly convinced of your inferiority, though you also spot a few charlatans and people better suited to mental health testing  for profit. Are you depressed? Lose you diaries. Lose your mind or watch it unravel and refuse to give up the seat closest to the tube. Now, I get up at five, coffee, write, break to walk the dog, have a low-fat grilled cheese sandwich with pickles and get back to work.

What’s your process?

10 Responses

  1. My 45 year process: Get accepted to prestigious university at 15 as an English major, then believe parental assessment that my talent isn’t enough to “make it.” Change colleges, change majors, yet continue to write. Jump into the career whirlpool, spend an inordinate amount of time volunteering for all manner of worthy causes, yet continue to write. Survive Hurricane Katrina, readjust life priorities to focus quality hours to writing and have since completed 6 manuscripts and an opera. Now, on the quest for a book deal. I am Saturday’s child.

  2. Good God. Have you been peaking into my life? Well, that one sentence . . . five o’clock, coffee, write . . . (dog included)

    The Process. Leave home at 18. No college – marriage. Enter corporate world at tender age of 19. Two kids later come packaged with a divorce. Now, I’m an IT rat – who moved my cheese and ugly gray cubicles included. Dilbert is my hero. A years old “piece of work,” on my desktop occasionally behaves like a gopher, popping up and saying “write me.” Decades go by. Without warning, the IT “career” is on fire – not in a good way. The thought of retiring from gray cubicles is no longer viable. It’s time to consider the next phase. Go back to school. Begin writing in earnest. Four year degree but more important? Completed manuscript. Agent. More writing. Manuscript sells three years later. Still writing.

  3. Writing is the biggest secret I had in high school. Win a prize in a creative class, become your average English major. Be the unkempt nervous young person who pulls a poem out of her back pocket at an open mike and defy odds by being really good. Lose a parent, go to grad school, work in bookstores, boring, boring, boring. Better job, worse job, better job, worse job. Coffee, dog, 7 am. Write and try not to lose my mind.

  4. Dream of everything that has been lost and has gone wrong. Wake up. Eat a light breakfast while reading a book from the endless shelves of books I will never be able to read enough of. Post postings few or none will read on my website and FB page. Appreciate the early morning quiet. Work on whatever piece of writing it is I’m working on. Exercise as though a spot of exercise every morning is going to delay my passing into nothingness. Do whatever work I need to do that is not the work I want to do but is necessary. Tell myself whatever lies I need to tell myself.

    Feel terrible. Utterly in the pits. Frightened, sad — to the point of tears, every day. Well-fed (dieting perpetually to avoid weight gain), safely housed, precariously employed — nonetheless, a frightened man of sorrows I’ve somehow become. Far from home and family and friends, in a strange northern land whose people I will never comprehend. Regretting all the wrong choices and false moves. Knowing that this is the corner where I make my stand because this is the corner I’ve painted myself into. Kids, be careful what you ask for.

    My process is I keep at it, with the reading and the writing and petitioning editors to publish my work, a lesser Theseus in a maze of his own making, Ariadne’s ball of string lost.

    My process is I just do it. Too bad the Mad Men have stolen every word and made them all into sales pitches, but that’s what I do — I just do it. It makes no sense. I will be gone and forgotten soon enough, but in the meantime, all sense of humor gone, all sense of play gone, all sense of hope gone, I just do it.

    And today is the first of the month and there is the rent to be paid, so I will go do that.

    And that, boys and girls, is my process.

    • Paragraph 2, the strange northern land: if you haven’t already done so, find one of the little pockets of Mexico in and around Chicago and have a good Mexican meal, the spices and salsa way hotter than you’d expect. Years ago I found a place in Des Plaines, just a block near the train station, and had one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Got change from a five dollar bill, too. Don’t know if it will aid in the Process, but, you know, it might remind you of something you love. Take care!

      • Thanks, Mike. There is no shortage of good eats hereabouts, including Mexican food. People take their food seriously up here.

        As for being reminded of things I’ve loved, I’m suffering no deficit there. No surplusage, either. Some days are trickier than others, is all.

  5. Run, run and then run some more. When done with running, walk. The key is to always keep moving. Good bye to the life I never wanted. Find a place to call my own, with mountains, trees, rocks and water that must be speaking to me, judging by the thoughts that come while out skiing, hiking or paddling. Find, unexpectedly, the woman I always wanted to be with and have a child who figures out every possible way to drive me crazy, and I love them both with all my heart. Always return to hearth and home. Realize that no matter how many miles I put on, I’ve never really left my old life behind. Reconcile with this, but from a distance.
    On my walks and in my head, I write. Eventually it flows onto paper and I clean up the mess later. My thoughts and ramblings are rarely quiet now, more a cranked up electric guitar than a fingerpicked acoustic. Sometimes it’s just noise, but it’s mostly fast and loud.

    • Your comment reminds me of something I tell my wife from time to time — “It doesn’t matter where you go, you’re still going to be there.”

  6. Finding yourself watching yourself from outside yourself, allowing Life to run away on a mindless course of its own.
    Occasionally re-reading your great unfinished manuscript, thinking; gee, it’s really good, you should finish it, but then shelving it anyway.
    Leaving the wonderlands of the deciduous Northeast where you relished the early nightfalls that honored your dark side.
    Whoring yourself to the flatlands of Florida, to the Boca zip code, to the platitudes of a life of leisure that anyone would die for.
    Re-reading your once published magazine stories wondering how the hell you once wrote so well.
    Winning a few journalistic awards.
    Going to grad school, savoring every moment.
    Writing, writing.
    Raising a beautiful, intense, complicated family.
    Majoring in English, because, what else?.
    Writing poems in high school, bursts of promise, an entire manuscript.
    !0th grade English teacher telling you to keep writing.
    Studious, daydreaming kid.
    Uneventful, shy childhood.
    Being born.

  7. My process?
    Egads it started at a kitchen table in Jo’burg South Africa when I spent a chunk of misspent twenty-something there with time to pretend I knew what I was doing.
    Late thirties I jumped on the op-ed, article, memoir and column wagon, while longingly gazing into the eyes of fiction. But non-fiction was a reality check. Hundreds of non-fiction pieces and I’m still not satisfied. What’s that all about?
    I’m also up at 5am.
    I’ve never been busier, happier or more frustrated.
    I have the time and what do I do?
    Which project do I tackle?
    I spin in circles.

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