Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who are you, really?

By Julie

Recently, my best friend and I were discussing (by text, no less) the merits of a new hair product we both tried, me at her suggestion. At one point in our conversation, I chuckled over her routine of various and sundry products while I sighed at mine: Shampoo. Conditioner. Hairspray.

It also made me remember a scene from a slice-of-life 2006 movie I really liked called Friends with Money. Kind of a spoiler, but at one point near the end, the character Jane, played by Frances McDormand (LOVE! Also of Fargo fame …), admits she stopped washing, combing and styling her hair because none of the products lived up to their hype. None of them made her young and beautiful. So she just decided to be who she was without them. (Hmm. Plain Jane? I just realized that!) The indication, obviously, is that she will come back to the balance of using what works for her to be true to herself—neither going overboard buying a new product every week, or completely giving up on her own plain, unique beauty.

And, of course, this conversation and movie memory brought a metaphor for writing to my mind. Because those metaphors, they’re always jumping me. (Thanks again, David Wilcox, for this line.)

Sometimes we try so hard to find the perfect course to show us how to write. The perfect article to show us how to prettify a passage. The perfect advice to make our writing …


When sometimes what we really need to do is just get out of the way.

Sometimes that “product” we squirt on our fingers and work through a paragraph or chapter or entire novel is the thing that makes it stand out as forced. The “product” we spray on liberally can be the thing that detracts from the natural shininess of words that were quite lovely on their own. Looking for the perfect “product,” we sometimes spend so much time and money, our own unique voice is submerged in the hunt.

Now, I’m not saying it’s always a bad idea to search for and use things that can improve our writing (or our hair!). But ultimately, we have to get out of the way. We have to find what makes us really and truly ourselves on the page.

Uncombed. Uncoated. Uncamouflauged.

That’s when the real story comes out.

photo credit: from simon_redwood's Flickr photo stream, used by Creative Commons license


  1. Every time I am tempted to take yet another writing course or sign up to do a MFA when I don't have the funds for my mortgage much less for tuition, I remember that when I get out of my own way and just let the words flow I can write without anyone telling me how. Then I calm down and go back to dumping words into my Alphasmart and let the story lead me. I'm at my most contented when I am doing just that.

  2. This advice really speaks to me, Julie. It's one of the reasons I read so few craft books. Many give conflicting information and it would be easy to become obsessed with how you measure up to other people's guidelines. My voice would be lost.

  3. Thank you, Kim and Christina. We are kind of a "fix-it" society these days, when sometimes we just need to leave it alone. Not always, but many times.


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