Posted on November 17, 2013 by betsylerner
The bottom line is no one cares if you don’t write. No one asked you to. No one will die. There are chipmunks who work harder than you. You didn’t need to buy that Moleskin. You forgot you had one anyway. No one said: a poem please. No cried out when you sat down, mid-poem, because you couldn’t bleat another line, a lifetime ago on Minetta Lane. Do not ask what your writing can do for you. Do not got to therapy and crawl inside your inner ear. Did you ever think it was a gift from god? To stop? You won’t have to eat. You need not sing. You don’t have to be anything. When you remember those pages rocking out to sea, remember how good it felt to not reach for a simile. My face and your ass. Is like.
Do you ever think of quitting? Please be as negative as possible.
Filed under: Freak Flag, self-loathing, Uncategorized, Undead, Writers, Writing | Tagged: chipmunks, grandiosity, self-loathing, writers block | 51 Comments »
Posted on September 1, 2013 by betsylerner
Did you finish your memoir, your novel, one lousy stinking poem? Did you read War and Peace? Rescue a dog? Yourself? Did you jump on the Yonana craze? Lose a notebook with all of your best work? Did you pick peaches? Fuck your wife? Fuck up your life? Did you take up cycling? Wonder why you couldn’t write. Did you talk to a woman at the farm stand? Was your family trapped by a rabid raccoon who attacked your dog and bit off half your finger? Did you think about everyone who died? Did you imagine their airless life? Did you give money to the guy at the entrance to the highway because his sign said he was hungry and for once you felt more compassion than fear? What does it take to write the sentences of your life? To live inside the mole hole? And come out with that grin on your stupid dirty face.
What did you do on your summer vacation?
Filed under: self-loathing, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing | Tagged: despair, peaches, raccoons, Summer, vacation | 59 Comments »
Posted on May 1, 2013 by betsylerner
The other day I read a quote in the NYT that stopped me. It was from William Zinsser, who wrote the classic “On Writing Well.” He’s nearly blind at 90 and still coaches students, who read their work aloud to him. “People read with their ears, whether they know it or not,” Mr. Zinsser says. I totally get that. I mean I hear everything I read. Am I being too literal? I think it’s a profound observation about reading. And, by the way, still having the interest and stamina to help writers at 90. That’s just crazy for loco. God bless you, Mr. Zinsser.
What do you read with?
Filed under: Uncategorized, Writers, Writing | Tagged: NYT, writing, Zinsser | 53 Comments »
Posted on December 12, 2011 by betsylerner
Today, a client described the feeling of waiting for his book to come out in the new year. “One minute I know nothing’s going to happen, it’s already over. And the next minute I’m winning the Pulitzer.” I’m not going to say the truth is probably in the middle because more likely than not nothing will happen, another worthy book will slip beneath the waves, or as a writer once said of publishing a book, it’s like carrying a bucket of water to the sea.
We can talk about the terrible odds of getting recognition. We could also talk of the writer’s ego, the grandiosity and the insecurity, the hopelessness and magical thinking. Or we can talk about the opening night jitters, the complete and total lack of control over whether you will be reviewed at all, and if so what will be said, and then, of course, will it sell.
I ask my client what he’s working on. It’s a sleight of hand question to distract him from the oncoming traffic, but I also think that a new project is the hair of the dog and the only way to move on, move forward, to understand that this one book is just that: this one book. It does not a career make (unless you are Harper Lee). Or, like me, you can continue to shamelessly flog a ten year old book. I’ve seen embittered writers who swear off ever writing a book again, write again.
I don’t think it’s about the triumph of the human spirit. In fact, the desire to keep writing and publishing is more likely a triumph of human perversion. I want to know: does it ever get easier. Does a writer ever say, I’m good. Or, I’m happy. Or is that for other people?
Filed under: Fame! Celebrity! Riches!, self-loathing, Uncategorized, Writers | 67 Comments »
Posted on June 15, 2011 by betsylerner
A friend told me that she was going to writers “conference” this weekend. Those quotation marks looked mightily suspicious to me, so naturally I emailed her back. What’s his name? She wrote back, “I wish.” Now, I ask you, what is the point of going to a writers conference if it isn’t to swap saliva? All that built up tension, anxiety, insecurity roiling through the workshops. And don’t the girls look so pretty in their indian print shirts and espadrilles. And the boys all old spicy. Who, after all, could make a better lover than a writer? Someone who is sensitive but strong, deep but shallow, narcy and giving all at the same time.
Once, at a writers’ conference, we canvassed all the women and asked them who they would rather sleep with, Richard Ford or Tim O’Brien. I guess that dates me a bit. Ford won, by a landslide. What writer would you most like to sleep with? Living or dead?
Filed under: Uncategorized, Writers, Writers Conference | 84 Comments »
Posted on April 25, 2011 by betsylerner
I was invited to participate on a publishing panel last week at NYU. The last time I saw that many eyes glazed over is when I was student there thirty years ago. The panel never really came together, and I think I alienated a fellow panelist right out of the gate. He was lamenting the fact that writers couldn’t make a living just writing anymore. If five percent of writers make a living writing I would be surprised. I said that no one invites you to write, no one cares if you do, and that it is against the world’s indifference that you create. If you are lucky enough that the world loves what you write, then perhaps you will be among the few who make their living writing. The rest of us get up at dawn or write all night, or write on vacations, or quit for years and hate ourselves in an even more special way. Is it fair that a thriller writer can make millions and poet basically nothing. Is it fair that a “popular” historian can make millions while a scholar puts twenty years into a book for which he will be paid $5,000? Fair? If my mother raised me on one consistent mantra it was this: who said life was fair? And she said it after I wailed about the great injustices of life: my sister getting a larger portion of mac and cheese, the fact that I had to wear her hand me downs, including a set of faded olive Danskins. Enough said.
Even though I work every day to get money for writers, I still don’t think they are owed a living. They have to produce work that has popular appeal. And some have to work at it a very long time. The writer who comes out of the womb clutching a bestseller is rare, indeed. As far as I can tell, it’s a long distance race, it takes stamina and creative drive and fierce self-belief.
What say you?
Filed under: Filthy Lucre, Writers, Writing | 67 Comments »