Motivated by a combination of fear and stubbornness, I’ve had pretty much the same haircut for a decade now. Sometimes long, sometimes short, my hair is always cut straight across. No bangs, no layers, no nothing. I figure you can’t go wrong with simple, right?
But always playing it safe is boring. That’s true for hair, true for life, and especially true for writing.
So lately I’ve been trying to take more chances. Please see Exhibits A (a week ago) and B (today):
More interesting, no?
The side bangs will take some getting used to, but I like them. Also, the stylist tried to get both sides of my hair to flip in, but as usual my hair did not cooperate. Is it weird that I take a certain pride in how stubborn my hair is? … Anyway, I think I’ll be happy if I can just get both sides to fall straight. I am so inexperienced with this stuff.
Of course, this is about much more than hair.
When it comes to our writing, we have to learn not to be stubborn. We can’t hang on to passages, words, or plot points just because we like them. Sure, you may have worked really hard on that scene, but is that scene really working for your story? If not, cut it. And that metaphor you just wrote? It’s beautiful, but pointless. Cut it. Two characters who serve the same purpose? Cut one. Adverbs that subtly but significantly clutter your manuscript? Cut ’em.*
Trust me, your ms will look better with a little trim.
In addition to trimming, writers should push themselves to experiment. To let go of all fears and inhibitions. For me, half the fun of fiction is getting to “do” and “experience” things I would never otherwise do or experience. Like traveling to another world (in my current WIP) or getting completely wasted (in Twenty-Somewhere). The other day, Erin asked me what I thought about writing characters who do bad things, like lying or stealing, and I had to admit that I find it fun. It’s my chance to be a little naughty and crooked, since I’m such a straight-edge in real life. (Coincidentally, Rachele Alpine blogged about “bad” characters today too!)
In other words, what I’m saying is that we should all follow Ms. Frizzle’s advice: “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!”
Because it makes for fun hair, interesting lives, and great writing.