• 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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What happens when your skills as a writer fail you? When you can’t get something to say what it needs to say? When the words fail you? When the plot peters out? When your characters are hopelessly two dimensional? What happens when you’ve written more than 150,000 words and you have no idea what your book is about? What does “about” even mean? What happens when you hit a wall and keep hitting it and you start to wonder why you do this writing thing at all? I’m asking for a friend.

6 Responses

  1. Ha ha, yes, I have a friend with that problem too. She persists, despite knowing that she really doesn’t have the skills to get the job done properly. Still, can’t let all that effort go to waste… and besides, maybe she’ll bring it off somehow anyway. When my paintings fail through lack of technique, I call them impressionist, or, if they’re really bad, abstract. Can the same be done with novels?

  2. Slow down. Stay within each sentence until it’s how it should be. Trust that all the answers will come.

  3. Maybe put the ailing manuscript away for a while. Take long walks. Start fresh on clean pages when inspired. Parts of the manuscript might be salvageable later, when your friend has some distance from it….

  4. I don’t know. Try something new. Something different. Anything. Go away for a while. However long it takes. Maybe come back. Maybe not. Put down the pen and never take it up again? Could happen. When it calls you, it will call you. Respond then. Before that, you can call and call, and it won’t come. It may as well be a cat.

    Don’t panic, don’t despair — well, you’re going to despair, but don’t panic. Don’t do anything rash. Well, not too rash. Don’t kill yourself. Seriously.

    If you’re hitting a wall, dig a tunnel. If the tunnel won’t go under it, then climb over it. If it can’t be scaled, then go around it. If it’s too wide to get around, then turn your back to it and go the opposite way. Don’t wonder why you do anything, unless you need therapy, or are in therapy, or are mounting a legal defense, or could use your wondering to find new material to write about.

    “About” doesn’t mean anything. The work will be about whatever it will be about. You may never know what it is about. It may be about everything. It won’t be about nothing.

    Whatever it is, that train that’s too long and gone off the rails, with its cardboard characters, its limp-noodled plot, its abysmal words, its obscure mufflings of any desired meaning — throw it away. Junk it! Clear the rails! New train’s a-coming through! When? Fuck all, I don’t know. It will be here when it gets here. Make sure you have an ear open for the distant approaching whistle.

    Wait. Trust. Pay attention. Keep the lights on. Go do something. When the writing is ready to escape from your mind and heart and soul, through your hands and onto the page, it will do that. Keep the faith.

  5. Wow – do you have a super secret connection to my brain and/or computer?

    I’m in this same hole right now – except the 150K mark.

    We are our own worst enemy, creating substantial amounts of worry over a word, sentence, paragraph, okay, an entire book. I like all of the advice above – but particularly aed’s b/c that’s what I do.

  6. Dear Betsy’s Friend –

    Cry. Eat some mac and cheese. Wash it down with a brownie studded with walnuts. Check your closets for that emergency bottle of Lemoncello and finish your day with a wee bit or two while streaming Hacks. And for God’s sake don’t answer your phone. Talk to no one.

    Tomorrow you will feel like shit but maybe something will have fertilized overnight.

    Good luck. And talk about it with Betsy. She’s probably seen the bottom of the compost pile too.


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