Monday, January 16, 2012
Know Thyself: Dress Accordingly
And now, ten years later, all I can do is hope that I make sounder fashion choices these days. As with so many other things in life—and in writing—I knew the pant suit (with an elastic waist, no less) was all wrong when I did it, but I did it anyway.
I can say there was something I liked about that horrible suit. I think I liked the jacket—tweedy gold-threaded muted piney-mustard green (okay, so that sounds unforgivably terrible, actually). I liked that it was an ensemble—three distinct pieces of clothing that went together (I haven’t mentioned the matching scarf because I really am trying to forget it; shudder). I liked that it was dressier than anything I usually wore. That I had heels to wear with it. That the length of the pants had fit me (though the jacket pretty much swallowed me whole). I liked the idea of the suit, but not the suit itself.
Like that once-upon-a-time-on-a-shopping-trip-with-my-mother-pantsuit, so many things I’ve tried to pull off in the world of fiction-writing have been better in theory than in actual execution. Once, I tried to write a story about a woman infected with tiny, white, flesh-eating insects. She also happened to be trudging along in a bad marriage; the woman was literally bugged to death. (Get it? Get it?) I’ve written stories with too many characters, stories with too few. I’ve written failed ghost stories and over-written allegories and saccharin poems about the long-ago passing of my grandfather and an essay about a girl (myself) who turned into a stone (my not-so-funny struggle with motherhood and out-of-whack hormones and the realization that, hey, I’m not a girl anymore).
I’ve used contrivances that were hugely self-conscious and ultimately false in life, in fashion, and in writing.
It’s another way of looking at killing your darlings. Throw out the ugly green suit. Know thyself: dress accordingly. Be bold in your writing. Write the terrible story about the tiny white bugs—because you have to write such crap; you really, really do—but push through it. Come out the other side. Take a deep breath. Start again. Now, say what you really want to say.