• 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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Baby, You’re Everything I Ever Dreamed of


When do you decide to call it quits? A day, a month, a year, more? When do you realize the patient upon whom you are operating is dead? Bled out. You forgot to add: color, description, voice, tone, suspense, plot? Oregano? Paprika? What? What if you’re not a quitter? What if you never say die? What it this pile of pages is all you got? Can you trust that something new will come, with feathers and spit, that the guts of this will be the grease of that, that fat is only fat?

When do drop a project?

15 Responses

  1. When you KNOW. Not because you’re afraid, or intimidated. Not because your mother said you couldn’t. Not because your mother said you could. When you KNOW. That’s what your intuition, insight, etc., is all about. It’s YOU, baby. Listen up.

  2. How very timely. The simple answer is: I won’t when that’s all I have. Instead, I will keep, as my husband put it only late last week, polishing a turd (he had not read the piece in question, but helped me describe what I suspected was happening). But once in a while, I know when to put something to rest — mainly when it feels like torture for weeks on end. Maybe the key is pushing your(one-)self harder to get it out there before you, your tastes, your sensibilities and the world have moved on. Why not be a little wild and reckless in these crazy times? Maybe the longer you hold on to the work, the greater the chance it meets a grisly end.

  3. Thank you for showing us some orange. It’s an important color right now.
    I drop something when there is nothing tying me to it.

  4. After it’s been shopped around and around and around, it goes in the closet. Everybody can’t be wrong.

  5. If you drop it, no biggy because it’s the process that adds to your critical mass of literary wisdom

  6. I don’t quit. It’s just that sometimes I can’t go on.

  7. This is a hard question. I’d like to drop what I’m working on now, start over, work on a better idea – but can’t. The deadline looms like the upcoming hurricane season.

  8. When it becomes like last summers socks under the bed, like a scampi/science project pushed to the back of my fridge, like the sprouted soft potato behind the bin I haven’t pulled out in months, like the week old dead skunk in the middle of the road no one will approach to dispose of, that’s when I freeze dry the stink and shelve it until desperation becomes hope on resurrection day.

  9. I quit when a trusted editor tells me that there is so much wrong that if I correct it, Frank’s monster will not be the same creature. The conflict between selling, telling, and smelling never ends. Sometimes, though, the smell won’t wash out.

  10. I never fully drop a project. I finish most stories and if it feels like shit, I shelve it. Even novels. Writing alters me. It changes me and is always pushing me towards something new. The crap I wrote yesterday is not what’s surfacing today. In going forward, I oftentimes surprise myself and can then reconsider an older piece. That’s infrequent, though. I love the intensity of a new romance.

  11. Ironic timing: I have spent much of the past several days suspecting that everything around me is a version of failure. Not the best frame of mind for decision making, as I have many times walked away from ideas and possibilities far too early. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

  12. When you’re desperate to move on, to write something new. When the thought of revising the same chapters or passages yet again makes you feel literal dread. When you’re sure you have nothing else to give to those pages.

  13. You can do that?

  14. Sometimes they just die. Sometimes their time passes, and they then exist as if encased in amber. Sometimes they were never viable in the first place, their existence confined to a neonatal care unit until the best thing for all involved is to pull the plug.

    Sometimes it’s a matter of “is this project just a so-what?”

    Sometimes you get reminded that you’re not going to have forever to dick around with your projects, so which will you ditch?

    My father made handcrafted leather goods — belts and wallets mostly. It was a hobby he took up in middle age. After he retired, he pursued it as an avocation. He’d work work work in his shop, a small standalone prefab in the back yard. At least once a year he’d set up a table or a booth at a craft fair and peddle his leather goods at ridiculously low prices. Or he’d give them away. I’ve been wearing belts and carrying wallets he made for decades now.

    He died almost a year-and-a-half ago, an old man whose final few years were difficult and whose avocation had got away from him. After he passed, my brother and I went through his shop and tried to make sense of the mess he had left. There were many unfinished projects, and many others for which he had purchased the makings but never even begun. It was not only sad, it was a lesson. Over the year that followed, I went through my writing files — all the finished stuff (though nothing’s really finished, in my book, until it’s published), all the partially finished stuff, all the notes, all the single-sentence ideas — and I got clear on what I had and what to do with it.

    There were a few short pieces that were pretty far along and I could finish those and I did. Some have even been published (why did I wait so long?). There were others that I knew were never going to be worth further effort. Sometimes the sparkling idea you had when you were 30 is the nothing-burger you wouldn’t fry up for a dog when you’re 60. That’s one of the ways you know when it’s time to drop a project — wait long enough, and you’ll know.

    Then there were the rest. Projects that all I could see to do was arrange them in some sort of prioritized order, and set to work, hoping I’ll still believe in them, still be able to give them what they’ll need in order to make them worth anyone else’s attention, when it comes time — assuming it comes time, for how much time do we ever have? (answer: we have now, and we don’t have even that) — when it comes time for me to work on them.

    I’ll never have enough time to finish them all. How will I know when it’s time to quit? I don’t know that I will.

    The project I’ve been working on most recently is one of the larger ones and it is a bastard. It is ugly. I hate it. It hates me and it laughs at me and it won’t let me go. I dream about it. I dream answers and I wake up with questions. I have no choice but to finish it or die while I’m trying. It has none of the qualities that a piece of writing is supposed to have other than the words.

    words words words words words

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