Thursday, August 03, 2006

What A Writer Wears

By Nichole Giles

In the world of working adults, there are many professions that require a uniform of some kind. From suit and tie white-collar business people, to vest-wearing Wal-mart workers, to matching t-shirt and slacks small business employees, or full out head to toe fire gear, people wear different things for different jobs. Even the Dog-On-A-Stick employees who wear rainbow-striped shirts are never seen without the matching hat. It’s part of the uniform.

Writers have a uniform of sorts too. It’s called comfort. Comfort comes in many shapes and sizes, many different levels and tastes. One writer may choose to write in his Sunday best, because wearing a collar and tie help give him the comfort that he is doing something important. Another writer may work in her work-out-wear; because she figures writing is exercise for the brain. Someone else may sit down to his computer in a swimsuit, hoping to keep from drowning in his own words.

Being comfortable while writing is important. It eliminates one of the big distractions of getting started. I need that help, since the blank page is distracting and intimidating all by itself.

The good thing about writing from home is that your boss (the almighty publisher) doesn’t get to see your writing uniform. They will never know that you wrote your most brilliant book in your Spongebob Squarepants pajamas, or your grandmother’s hand-me-down housedress. If you jumped out of the shower, with shampoo in your hair and soap on your back and started writing in nothing but your bath towel because you finally figured out what comes next in your story, the publisher will never know that either.

When you look at the writer profile on the back of a book, you will likely see a distinguished looking figure, dressed in a suit—or something equally distinguished and smart-looking—with a perfectly calm expression on his or her face. Readers mostly believe—without thinking much about it—that this writer got out of bed every morning, dressed himself in that particular suit, arranged his face in that exact expression, and sat down for eight hours of hacking away at the keys of a word processor.

We writers know that this belief is a fallacy.

That distinguished looking writer probably wrote this story—all twenty-five drafts of it—in his underwear in the middle of the night, while chowing down on M&M’s and soda pop. His hair spiked out in every direction from the fingers constantly run through it, his face rough with stubble from lack of a razor, and he smelled like he hadn’t seen a shower in three days—or more.

But when the book was published the picture on the cover looked classy and admirable. So classy that readers who pick up the book look at it and think to themselves, “Gee, I wish I could be as cool as that guy.”

That is the beauty of what we do. Every day when we sit down to write, we get to decide what our uniform is going to be. Kind of makes you wonder what I was wearing when I wrote this blog, doesn’t it?

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