I wrote a book called THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. It's an advice book for writers, though it's more about what makes writers tick. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. I post less frequently now, but hopefully with as much vitriol. Please join in!

    Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I’ve learned one thing about writers, it’s this: we really are all alone. Thanks for reading. Love, Betsy

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Hey You Get Off of My Cloud

These days nearly every writer I edit has a petite problem with knowing when to end a paragraph or a chapter. The writers feel the need to cover a really good last line with two or three more, which is like driving three extra nails in the coffin. It’s like wink, wink, nudge, nudge after a joke. Did you get it? Just want to make sure you got it. It’s creepy. It’s like asking someone if they love you or think you’re pretty. Later we can talk about sense of an ending all that heady stuff, but for this moment in time, let’s just say don’t dance on the grave, burying the body is good enough.

Are you guilty?

Some are Dead and Some are Living

How well do you know yourself, and how well do you have to know yourself to be a good writer? Is ignorance new potatoes? Was that champagne nail polish a big mistake? Did you almost run someone over, again? We see you checking yourself out in the subway window, in the brass plate in the elevator, flossing in the car. You disgust me! Yes, I want fast cash. Yes I want the reduced turkey bacon fat. Yes, I want to be sitting in this chair and not the empty one. I used to think you had to know every cell, had be to a student of psychology, anthropology, history, zoology. You had to renounce your parents at least on some level. I’m trying to fix up my 60-something UPS man with a petite redhead. It bears repeating: I have no idea who I am only what I stand for.

How well do you know yourself and how well do you have to know yourself to be a good writer.

You’ve Yet to Have Your Finest Hour

In the last month, three writers have asked me whether or not they should trash what they are working on. Be honest, they say. I can take it. Be brutal. Be brutally honest. I just don’t want to waste my time. What would you do?  I can trash it. Just tell me what to do. What would you do?

This, my friends, is a trick question. This is not a question you should ask of anyone except your self. And the beauty is that even if you try put a work down, it won’t stay down if it’s shit you still need to work out. It may die as a novel and get reborn as a screenplay. It may go to bed as a play and wake up as a poem. It may drive a stake through its heart, or put its head in the oven, but if you keep writing it will find a way to become something if you still have something to say and you are a sick fuck, meaning a writer.

Should you burn your novel. Maybe. Junk that essay, shred your poem. If you’re asking me, sure, torch the whole fucking thing. But keep writing. The better flower has yet bloom.

What’s it going to be?

I’m Martin Sheen I’m Steve McQueen I’m Jimmy Dean

Working on a chapter though it feels more like a game of whack-a-mole. Every time I move a section into what feels like the right place, another hole opens up. How many craters can you see on the moon with your naked eye? Back ache, hands ache, dry eye and flatbread pizza. Five hours, nine, twelve. I’m holed up in a hotel in downtown Detroit working and all that’s missing is a pack of Luckys and a pair of nylons drying in the bathroom. I like to see how many hours I can go without speaking to a human being. Five hours, nine, twelve. I like it when I can think of the word.

Where do you write?


We’ve All Gone to Look for America

I had the great good fortune to visit Georgia O’Keeffe’s home over the weekend. The first thing I noticed was a wooden ladder resting against the wall lit by a noon sun, then a collection of rocks, then her humble single bed and the mountains beyond. Black cows and white horses in the valley below.  I was aware of the presence of greatness, a singular mind whose life was dedicated to art. No questions asked. Something so undeniable, so all encompassing. What was I thinking in my twenties working on my poems, spreading them out on the floor, pacing and smoking. Did I dream of being poet or was I already divided, in search of a job that would sustain me. O’Keeffe understood that making art would sustain her. Could there ever have been doubt with walls the color of cream, brown floors mixed with the blood of oxen. Standing in her courtyard and kitchen, her studio and storage room, to look at her spices and yogurt machine, it all made me feel full of wonder and longing and awe.

Who inspires you?


Ain’t No Valley Low Enough

Image result for martini shakerGood news, bad news. Rejection, acceptance. Invited to the party, snubbed. For once they put enough lime in my gin and tonic. For these small things I am grateful. The woman at the bar so vigorously shook the martini canister that I thought I heard the ice rumbling around and felt the coldness near my neck. Red light, green light. Bank account. How much time can you buy to write. Today, on the plane I was surrounded by a family of five. The father attended to all of the children while the mother zoned out watching episodes of Ozark on her device. You made yourself and you can break yourself. Don’t forget it.

Between writing and not writing, where are yon on the spectrum?

If I Can’t Have You I Don’t Want Nobody Baby

Image result for antique kimono

I once had a very contentious negotiation with a lawyer who was representing a producer. I was in way over my head and stayed extremely quiet for most of the conversation for fear of making a mistake. The lawyer grew increasingly frustrated with my silences and I realized I could use this to my advantage. The more he talked, the more he gave away. The less I talked, the more control I had. Finally, when he couldn’t stand it any longer, he said, “Look, sometimes you just have to open the kimono!”  It’s incredible the things people will say.

How do you keep your kimono?