Mood Hair: \müd her\ n: The unexpected and unpredictable hairstyles of the Problem Child. No one—not even PC herself—knows what her hair will look like after her next trip to the salon. It’s never described as “natural-looking.”
Laugh all you like about my Mood Hair. But in addition to making me happy, my Mood Hair has taught me a lot in the last few years, and some of it even applies to writing.
Change is good. Have you been wearing the same style since high school? Chances are, it’s dating you, making you seem out of touch and behind the times. And it probably doesn’t flatter you as much as it used to, either. Goodness knows, I could do Mall Bangs with the best of them and Aqua-Net was my savior, but it’s just not what’s right now. The same thing applies to books. Compare the Flame and the Flower to a new release—the style is different, the language is different, the h/h are different. You’d be hard pressed to find an editor who’d take on a book that sounded like it was written thirty years ago. Be true to yourself, but stay with the times. (And understand there’s a difference between “retro” and “hopelessly out of style.”) But remember trends can be cyclical—after all, who would have believed neon nail polish and leg warmers would be retro cool now… sigh.
Nothing is permanent. Hair grows. Dye jobs can be corrected. No matter what I do to my hair, I can always change it later. That knowledge gives me courage to try new things. If I can do that with my hair, surely I can give my self the same freedom with my WIP. Words in a file are the most ephemeral—and very easy to change. There’s very little to lose by trying something new. And, in the same way I sometimes decide a few days later that my hair is a bit bright, if my editor or I don’t like it, I can always change it.
Listen to those who know. I’ve been asking for a perm for two years now. My hairdresser won’t give me one. Partly because my hair is so over processed, a perm would destroy it (or I could give up either my color or my highlights—but I can’t have all three.) Also, I’ve been with this stylist long enough that she knows I’ll regret the perm later. I listen to her when she tells me that a color won’t look right or that a cut isn’t going to flatter my face. More importantly, I listen to her when she suggests I try something new—like a new way to do highlights or a different color. I may not always take her suggestions, but it usually leads me in a new and better direction. I try to take that same approach to revision—my editor knows what absolutely won’t work (like a perm), and she’s also the one full of great ideas about the possibilities. If you have an editor or trusted critique partner, listen to their ideas. (At the same time, don’t put too much stock in the random suggestions of anonymous contest judges—unless you’re the type, of course, who lets people on the street decide your hairstyle too.)
Be willing to accept the stares and disapproval of others. I had a soccer mom at AC’s school describe my hair as “just so bright and, well, interesting.” I could tell by the tone, she didn’t intend either of those to be compliments. Did I go change my hair? Nope. I’m just the mom all the kids know because my hair is different colors. I’ve had contest judges who hated my voice. I was given lots of “helpful” advice about how to make my voice more appealing (read: bland). So I stick out. Big deal. The ones whose approval I seek and care about think my hair is great. My editor likes my voice (and thinks readers will too). Everyone else can, well, shove it.
There are unbreakable rules. In the same sense that I can’t have color and highlights and a perm (and still have hair, at least), there are some rules that you’re just not going to be able to break, no matter how much you stomp your feet and pout. Sure, I could find another stylist who will do three processes to my hair, but do I want to? Do you want to turn your book into something else or hang on to an element to the extent that you’re willing to get rejected for it? There are some rules—listen to those who know (see above).
So, my Mood Hair has uses beyond entertaining the Playfriends and letting DG feel like he’s sleeping with a different woman every couple of months. It’s taught me to take chances and be comfortable sticking out of the pack. I’ve learned how to exert my individuality and stand out from the crowd without resorting to Goth black or pink spikes. I can be unique, yet socially acceptable at the same time. :-) Has it made me a stronger writer? Well, that’s up for debate. Has it made me a more confident writer—you bet.
What makes you feel confident? Have you ever done something really bold to yourself and LOVED it afterwards?
(For those new to the blog, you can see many variations of my Mood Hair in the Playground Yearbook.)