Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Things I’ve learned about writing from my Mood Hair.

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.)


Playground Monitor said...

At the ripe old age of almost 53, I got braces on my teeth. And not Invisalign or even ceramic, but good old full metal braces. I wore them for 29 months and at times I got really discouraged, but when they came off on June 6, 2006, I was beyond thrilled with the results.

While I was in the beginning stages of orthodontia, I found some websites for adults with braces, and one of the bits of advice they offered was to change your hairstyle to make the braces less noticeable. For about 20 years I'd had my hair permed. When I mentioned a new style to my hairdresser, the first thing she suggested was to grow out the perm and change the cut. "And if you don't like it, we can always perm it again."

I struggled through growing out that last perm and once it was finally gone, she was able to change the style. And a few months ago I decided I wanted to tweak it a bit by growing out the layers. I think next I might let the bangs grow out a bit so I can sweep them to one side more.

And if it doesn't work out, I can go back to the old style.

Not exactly "mood hair" in the PC sense, but it's about as moody as I'll get. LOL!

Rhonda Nelson said...

I love your Mood Hair, PC. It's so you. :-)

Angel said...

When I first went from dishwater blond to red, it was scary. I'd always stuck to the safe choices and the only change I'd made to my hair color was to add blond highlights. Now, I'd never go back (even if my husband would let me). We both love it and I'm already dreading the day I'll be too old for such a dark color.

It was the first step in many toward building my self-confidence and individuality.


Smarty Pants said...

I can't picture PM with a perm.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I've had big hair; I've had the spiral perm that took six hours and cost me a lot of moola. I've had layered hair. Until recently, I've never had it colored. Now, I get highlights to accent my already blonde hair.

I have a fear of hair color. Probably because my mother was the hair color queen all my life. And she suffered the thinning hair, the catastrophes, etc. The worst I ever had was green hair (chlorine and new perms don't mix).

So, now I have long straight hair. I consider changes, but my stylist insists I have to be careful. I can't support bangs, and my hair is too fine to do some funky cut and then hope it lays right.

I want PC's CP's hair. That woman has gorgeous hair! She can do anything with it. It holds a style, she doesn't have to wash it every single day if she doesn't want, and it looks beautiful. I had hair envy in SF.

Me do something bold to myself and then love it? Um, well, I'm brave and confident in general, but not too experimental with my look.

Darling Geek said...

Your hair style changes, PC?

Kathy said...

Mood hair? I always thought it was 'cool' hair! :-)

I agree, Lynn. PC's cp's hair is phenomonal!! If only...

I like my hair longer so I'm not getting many options. An occassional feathering alters the look a bit. Now we're trying to grow out the bangs a little more, which makes styling it up a bit difficult.

I didn't dye my hair for the longest because I didn't want to get stuck dying it all the time, but now I'm glad I did. Youth in a bottle. LOL. Me likes!!

Playground Monitor said...

I've avoided hair color too because I know once I start I'll have to keep it up. Once in a while I buy a box of Just for Men and cover the gray. JFM is cheap and since it's designed for men, it's simple to use. ;-) It isn't permanent and just fades out over time with shampooing. But who knows? When it REALLY starts getting gray I may be singing another tune.

Playground Monitor said...

Oh, and here's PM with a perm (and ten years and twenty pounds ago).

Problem Child said...

I know--my CP has great hair. Sigh.

Don't get cheeky DG--even *you* notice the more drastic changes.

And I like PM's current hairstyle over the perm.

Smarty Pants said...

I occasionally go red, although not recently. When I do, I go dark auburn, so its very noticiable. I've tried lighter reds lately and it isn't so much of a change that its worth the time or effort.

As for my hair, there's only a few things I can do with it unless I'm willing to straighten it or do a lot of work to it every day. Either all one length to my chin, or grow it out. Curls get wonky if they're any shorter.

Been pondering a change lately, but not sure what to do...

Liza said...

I've had the same hair stylist since I was 14, so she knows what I'll let her get away with on my hair. I color every couple of months and have let her try all different colors on me. I had red hair when I was in college and loved it, but now I pretty much stick to blonde with highlights(so no more perms for me either). I love her and trust her completely...except with the overall length of my hair. I love to be able to pull it back or put it up. She thinks it should be too short for either of those things. I'm winning right now, but who knows what will happen when I go in next.

Anonymous said...

I am a person who has very short hair, that's not for me. I do color my hair because gray isn't for me either. I do the coloring myself, and sometimes I nail it right and other times it's really dark. But I don't worry because it does eventually lighten up. I am one of those lucky people in that I just wash my hair 3 days a week, usually on Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday. I can curl it on those days & just kindof brush it out some and I am good to go. I can't put a perm in my hair, did that once, & I looked like Don King - very scary!!!! Overall, I am happy with my hair.

Darling Geek said...

I normally notice right after you say something like "ahem, do you you like my hair?", but, to be fair, that's more a comment on my observational skills than your hair.

Something about "mood hair" makes me think of Tonks from Harry Potter.

Jane said...

From first grade to high school, I had long hair. The summer before senior year, I chopped off my hair. My new cut was the same style of Demi's hair in "Ghost." Everyone at school was shocked, but it was so much easier to maintain.

Jen said...

I can't imagine you with a perm. No, PC, no.

Michele L. said...

Ok Mood hair? Couldn't fathom what you were going to talk about when I saw that but as I read on, a light bulb went on. Yes, I too have mood hair. I am now rather happy with my hair. I used to wear it short. My mom loved it. I hated it. I always loved long hair. I met my hubby when it was short. He fell in love with me and we were married.

Over the years I changed my hair color. He loves me with auburn hair. I have to admit, I do too. Eventually I let it grow long. I absolutely love it! My mom hates it! I have come to the conclusion that my mom was dictating the way that I should wear my hair. I told her that I like my hair long. She just 'Harumphed'.

These days my hair is long, auburn, and very happy! I am happy and hubby is happy. I do find when my period rolls around though my hair tends to act up and doesn't lay very well. Those are my bad mood hair days! Ah well,...

Michele L.