• 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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And the Traffic Wrote the Words

Day 15. I had a really good day. At least I think I did. That’s the beauty of writing. You really don’t know if you had a good day. You don’t know if what you did was great, garbage, or something in between. You might like it one day and not the next. You can’t tell if you’ve been kicked in the head or in the ass. Enter the snowflake land.

Do you have any way of knowing if you did good work?

15 Responses

  1. I know I did good work when I read it over and say, “Damn, I wish I’d written that!” Then I say, “Oh, wait. I did!”

  2. OMG, I disagree with Betsy. From the day I wrote the first page of my first novel, when I knew I “had” it, I’ve always known. That knowing just grows with the more you write. Yes, sometimes we merely HOPE we’ve written well, but when you feel it in your gut, you know. So, mazel tov! Ya done good!

  3. I know when I nail a phrase/paragraph/scene. I don’t know when I’ve nailed an essay.

  4. No you really don’t because it’s the sum of the parts that matters. Most of your outside readers read sections and reinforce how great you think it is or if they read the entire novel, they don’t point to many specifics. In revising, I’m realizing the chapters I thought so poignant and telling miss the point by about six degrees of separation. It’s complicated and hard.

  5. Ah, the question of measure. How to know? The wind cries: kill it. Inspiration whispers: lovely. Each word, sentence, graph – heck, every comma, is a question mark. Balance, waver, choice, serendipity. Meet me at the corner of intuition and objectivity.

    Answer; Sometimes you just know… or think you do. But I have learned not to worship my words.

  6. “Do you have any way of knowing if you did good work?”

    As you may learn to recognize good writing when you read it, so may you learn to recognize good writing when you write it.

    That doesn’t mean it will always look good to you, or that it will ever look good enough.

  7. “Do you have any way of knowing if you did good work?”

    Yes. When I don’t kill it, or mess with it. When I leave it as is, and let it be for the entire ms because I like it, and I like it the next day, and the next week, and on.

    Fickle is the word that most often comes to mind when I think of writers, and their writings. We are a fickle lot, swinging wildly in our efforts to improve. There is the likelihood we have killed darlings that were brilliant. There is the likelihood we have allowed the worst of the lot to live.

    What I do know is this, somehow you know it. Here’s an example:

    In SAINTS I wrote some passages I think about a lot. I wrote them “hot,” meaning I put the words down fast, my fingers almost unable to keep up with what was going on in my head. Once they were there, I did not alter them, not once. The scene is about a woman on the verge of death. She is suspended between the here and there. When I re-read those pages, I am always happy with them, and to this day would not change them. They were written two years ago – approximately. The book comes out in January. I went back and re-read them just now – still happy.

  8. Writing is such a solitary commitment, it’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t. Donna nailed it in her above entry,especially the part about writing down the words nearly as fast as you think. There are times when I know something works, but usually I have to tinker and putter, just try and make contact with the ball rather than swing for the fences. That’s the grunt work and I’m trudging along.

  9. “Do you have any way of knowing if you did good work?”

    it’s easiest with dialogue but otherwise, no. i often have to rearrange sentences but the sentences remain intact from their first sketching. i know when a scene has energy mostly because it swerves, and i love that sensation.

    but today, i don’t know nothing.


  10. I want to say I know when it’s good but every time I try to say that the old sex thing pops up (sorry). “There’s no such thing as bad sex.”

    But really, I know when it’s good, when all the parts and pieces feel right, when the words hum, when the angels sing, when the…wait…um…what were we talking about?

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