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 15, 2013 by betsylerner
Just want to mention that I spent four hours in Temple and forgot to atone. Spent the entire time thinking about writing, my writing, the writing of others, the cover of the NYT book review, a new client I shook hands with, the way my eyes feel most of the time which is dry and achy and sometimes slightly pulsing. The lady in front of me had a lace doily folded in the shape of a piece of pie and pinned to her head with a bobby pin. But it came loose and the pleats on the doily were hanging precariously off her head, the bobby pin also hanging on for dear life. Really, pray for my sins and pray for the dead with all that going on? Please, ladies, attend to your doilies! I beg of you.
What distracts you from yourself?
Filed under: neurosis, The End of the World as We Know It, Writing | Tagged: doilies, writing, Yom Kippur | 31 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 April 23, 2012 by betsylerner
Can writing be taught? Can lovemaking be taught? Forget lovemaking. Can you teach someone how to kiss? How to stand on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 44th Street and to all the world appear as if you are not contemplating the curb and its elegant heel. Can you teach someone how to properly sponge around the faucet when you finish the dinner dishes? Can you teach someone to appreciate sleep? To understand the perfect weight of a heavy head meeting a soft pillow, the body forgetting itself, a cotton nightgown swimming up? Can you teach someone to punctuate? Probably. Can you spell hopeless? Can you teach someone to write funny? To cook a perfect hard boiled egg so that the shell comes off in two perfect cracks. Can you teach someone how to cry, softly at first, and then in rivulets like rain down a Texan window. What about cliche? Can you teach it, beat, eat it, fuck it? Can you teach someone how to make something satisfying, to withhold your tongue for as long as possible?
What can be taught?
Filed under: Writing | 35 Comments »
Posted on January 25, 2012 by betsylerner
Got another query letter from prison today. It comes stamped on the back with a notice about what to do if you are receiving unwanted correspondence from an inmate. This particular prisoner quoted some of the best bits in The Forest For The Trees to impress upon me why I might like his work. Many writers have done this, but when it comes from the incarcerated it is unbelievably touching and a little scary. The letter was also hand written in the neatest imaginable block letters. Maybe I’ve seen Dead Man Walking too many times, but it amazes me to think that my book has found its way into a prison and a person there who wants or needs to write connected with it. I once read that a prisoner who was denied pencil and paper wrote sentences on the roof of his mouth with his tongue.
Did everybody write today? And if not, why not?
Filed under: Uncategorized, Writing | 73 Comments »
Posted on January 1, 2012 by betsylerner
I want to talk about being selfish, about being a selfish bastard, about boundaries and limits and the hard bark of an elm tree. I want to talk about waking up in a cold, empty house. Outside, gnarled gray branches electrified the sky. The plan is to work all day. Reading Poets & Writers to procrastinate, you see the face of a poet you once loved, followed to Baltimore; a failure in courage when you didn’t say hello. Later, a fruitless trip to Staples, forgetting the kind of toner you need, standing in the aisle like Ruth amid the alien corn. Can I help you, ma’am? Yes, dear man. Can you cover my body in toner and set it on fire? I spent the vacation writing. Writing!
I was hoping to do something new with the blog this year, to be positive and affirming and full of love, but I can’t. I can’t. I can’t and I won’t. Resolution: eat shit and die.
And your resolution? Whatcha got?
Filed under: The End of the World as We Know It, Uncategorized, Writing | 44 Comments »
Posted on September 13, 2011 by betsylerner
Let’s talk about a subject near and dear to my gall bladder. The way writers talk about their own work. Often they tell me that they think their work is good, quickly followed by a caveat, “but what do I know,” or ” but you’ll tell me.” Some will go out on a limb and tell me that they think they are better than Franzen or (insert the name of the author about whom you are most envious). Other writers tell you their work is crap, shit, etc., and you are meant to rush in like a wave and banish that thought. Though some, even highly decorated writers, do believe their work is crap, and it is a sign of mental illness. I love it when someone says they are not great, but they are good. And we are meant to understand that good, in this context, is somehow better than great, somehow more real, more honest. “I’m not saying I’m the best,” means “I’m the best.” ”I don’t care if I win a Pulitzer” means “give me a god damn Pulitzer.”
I think how you feel about your work is an extension of how you feel about yourself. Does this make sense or am I blowing more Lerner smoke? Better yet: tell us how do you feel about your work?
Filed under: Writing | 73 Comments »