• 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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The First Thing I Met Was a Fly With a Buzz

I know it’s February. I know it’s Covid. But you can’t keep asking me if you should quit writing your book. Of course you should. Er, um, I mean of course you shouldn’t. I mean what’s it to you? Literally, what is it to you? Should you quit caffeine, sloe gin fizzes, on-line masturbation, toe surgery, gluten (I’m still waiting for a satisfying definition of gluten and why some people don’t eat it). Should you quit shaving your pits? Quit giving bad advice? Quit thinking how much you hate other people. I mean what can you give up? We all know one thing, we pencil pushers, no one give a shit. No one. Maybe your mommy. Your work is a pile of sand in the desert, if that. Please don’t quit! Really? It’s like breaking up with someone who isn’t there. (God, I’ve done that enough times.) You have to will it into being. You have to water it. You have to stay handcuffed to the basement pipe and write the fuck into the night. Should you quit? Maybe the question is should you have ever started. You’re a writer. You can’t quit.

Are you a quitter?

31 Responses

  1. Nope.

    It’s been the year from hell. Lots of loss and craziness. My pits are aren’t as smooth as they should be. But I am still loading up on caffeine and still writing.

    Is there any choice? I think not.

  2. I found the keys to the handcuffs and I cannot lie, freedom from the yen and the obsession feels good BUT it just doesn’t feel right. I need to find the keys.

  3. Sometimes. I might quit on a story if it’s riding a dead horse on a broken carousel, but the good stories evolve and change, rising from the ashes with more than a flicker of a flame. Quit? Yeah, sometimes you have to in order to survive and see what comes next.

  4. I can and did quit. No one needs to read my shit, and I don’t need to be read, especially when everyone’s so goddamn judgy all the time. I email my sister a poem once in a while and she emails back to tell me I’m a genius—what else is there? What possible edification would ten thousand readers give me? The stories live with exactly as much longevity in my head as they would on paper, and please me more as a mental plaything than when I try to extract them and explain to the world what happened. I think we should all write our own damn books and read them to ourselves. Actually, that’s what we’re doing anyway.

    (You’re judging me right now, aren’t you? You think I have a potty mouth and that judgy is not a word—or if it is, it should have an E in it. Right on both counts, motherfucker!)

    • I sure as shit hope you don’t quit completely.

    • I apologize that I was judgy on your manuscripts, Averil. This is hard for me to say. I want to make sure that only the right words–

      fuck it, Averil, all I can say is I’m sorry I wrecked our friendship. You are brilliant and were a bright star in my life and I miss you and the gift that you are.

      • Tetman! I’m still here, you’re still there, and I have all the affection and admiration in the world for you. Please don’t say we’re wrecked. There’s so much wreckage around us already: poor Frank with his damaged house, and Mike and Lisa having each lost a parent, and Carolynn getting knocked on her ass and Sherry giving up on her pits. My friendship is sturdier than my pages, I promise you. I love you, all of you, and I’ll always write enough to remain in the tribe.

        It’s interesting the way we think about writing and what it means to quit. I don’t believe any of us could quit altogether. Words are too beguiling. But publication is a different matter. I just can’t do it. I can’t stare at my reflection all those painful hours and slog through a million revisions and concessions, and bear daily witness to the diminishing returns of my intellect for a reader to say, “It was just okay.” Fuck the reader. Fuck her sideways. I’ll be over here writing some masturbatory nonsense and the reader can pound Betsy’s sand.

        That’s right, I said it. Reader, I’m breaking up with you.

        Are you there?

    • I’m glad you’re writing poetry. I’d read anything you wrote. I loved your blog back in the day, all that poignant yearning for green, misty forests. You are a fine writer, Averil. Know that.

  5. I wanna read your shit, Averil Dean!! (I would have written that in all caps, but I worry people would be judgy. Which is a word.)

  6. I can’t quit. Stick that sweet stuff straight into my veins. For fifty years, Betsy — fifty fucking and fuckless years — I have ridden the horse of my apocalypse, sometimes at a gallop, sometimes a canter or a trot, sometimes a slow walk, ever after the tilting windmills of my dream. My life is the fallacy of sunk costs. For me to quit would be for me to judge my life a waste. Am I scared to do that? Damn straight I am.

    I can’t quit. This is my boulder to roll up the slope. The rock to which I am forever chained. The curse of the blessing, the blessing of the curse.

    I will go drink tea in the Sahara. I will do that till the pot is drained and I am desiccated bones covered with sand. I have made sure I have no other choice.

    • Preach!

    • This isn’t about quitting, but about words Betsy. I get the Library of Congress daily poems and today was Frank O’Hara and the way he says rocks … that’s how strong words are, how elemental. Whether they’re on the page or in our head or waiting, someplace else, till they’re ready.

      Today
      Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
      You really are beautiful! Pearls,
      harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
      the stuff they’ve always talked about

      still makes a poem a surprise!
      These things are with us every day
      even on beachheads and biers. They
      do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks.
      —Frank O’Hara

  7. Luv your blog so much!! You’re a pip. The gluten thing…there are two books to read, if you want to understand. One is Lose The Wheat, Lose The Weight. And Formerly Known As Food. If you read only one of these, read the latter. Also, some people get ill eating gluten. These books explain why. For me, it’s all about the inflammation caused by gluten/grains. For others, it’s life-and-death. For others, it’s vanity (I guess I’m on board with that one, too). These books will change your life. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more. Keep harassing us, Betsy…we need you!! Jude

  8. I am a quitter. Six months after Hurricane Michael, I was out of gas. Too much damage, inside and out. Too much to do. I walked away from a
    column I’d done for 14 years. Each column became harder to write, and less enjoyable, while the work of rebuilding, the aggravation of dealing with predatory contractors continued. Two hundred fifty days without air conditioning in the house, spending nights in a ten foot trailer where it was cool enough to sleep, appreciating the fact that many didn’t have anything left, or anyplace to sleep. Three hots and a cot, lots of work and problem solving every day.

    Words didn’t come, and seemed less important than slugging it out with circumstance. Few have come since.

    • Keep writing, buddy!

    • Frank I too quit my column after many years sharing my life with anybody who wanted to read while balancing on the rim next to a roll of single ply.
      And then my own hurricane.
      Age slapped me in the face and knocked me on my ass. I got back up but have not stood quite as tall as before.
      The world has changed for all of us. Problem is I don’t have the excuse of no-time as an out for a feeble word count. I have all the time I need and no words to fill the void.

  9. I’m not quitting writing but I am quitting fussing over the fickle publishing industry. It’s not a level playing field and at the moment all the gate keepers seem shut down and full of pathetic excuses. Oh well. I send things out and write new stuff, and am smugly proud of still being in the game.

  10. Good post. Thanks.

  11. Ah to quit, perhaps to dream. I am running full-tilt, enduring slings and arrows, multi-tasking and sobbing. There is no HEA, no third act and this year, no Mardi Gras. Still, I press onward as there is really isn’t any other choice.

  12. Ya know, quitting means I wouldn’t respond to your posts. They would remind me too much of what was. I’d be disengaged from all things writerly. Like Averil’s word judgy, is it a word? (she came up with the original stompy footed too, I think)

    The only thing I will quit is bad ideas. Matter of fact, I have a folder on my desktop titled just that, Bad Book Ideas. It’s been growing lately.

    Good to see some of the reg’lars out here. (waves)

    • I HATE it when I have to clarify. Is writerly a word, is what I meant.

      • Writerly is totally a word, it’s just that Spellcheck is so judgy. Judgey? I still don’t know. We have judgment and judgement…

        Indy says we can use them if we want, and she would know. She has mad writerly skills.

        • That guy Shakespeare coined a lot of the words he used. If it’s good enough for him to make them up as he went along, it’s good enough for the rest of us. Eff Spel Chek and his stupid brother Otto Kerekt.

        • Averil! Can I say I hate WordPress? It’s been acting wonky lately, won’t let me like Betsy’s posts anymore – at least I can comment – and no longer notifies me when someone replies to a comment. I still love your writing, and have to satisfy myself with your comments. Sigh. Breaking up with readers – made me laugh. I believe in what Indy says, too.

          • WordPress! Ugh, right? I started blogging again last year, then couldn’t get back into my account for months. Last week I was able to get in and write but I can’t link to anything or update my avatar or see what other people are up to.

            I sound just like my mother.

            I did manage to subscribe to your newsletter, Donna. Go, me!

            XO

  13. Hey, Betsy. Hi, y’all (especially Averil). I can’t speak to quitting because I never really started. I guess I did quit hanging out here. It got too hard to keep facing that I never really started. But who knows? In the words of Carolyn See, I’m not dead yet (though I’m getting closer).

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