Hair grows back and fiction isn’t real, so take some chances!

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?

Mmm, maybe.

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.

*Note: Contrary to popular writing advice, I believe there is a time and place for adverbs. But I also recognize that a lot of writers tend to overuse them, myself included.


  1. so true. i have the same philosophy when it comes to photos – if something is no good, it doesn’t matter how much you worked on it, time to hit the delete button. on the flip side, pixels are cheap and mistakes are ok, so taking some chances can lead to excellent results.

    like the new ‘do :)
    .-= • Recent post by Simon: LensBaby =-.

  2. Excellent analogy! (And your haircut looks nice, too!) I think it’s always a good rule of thumb to know that if you’re content, that means you’ve “Settled” for something “safe” and only by shaking things up a little do we learn to change and discover something new. Life is about learning & books are made to go beyond our expectations — both as readers & as writers!

    Of course this coming from someone willing to hack apart her books, but only *once* cut her hair more than a trim… *blushes*

  3. I like it! It frames your face really nicely. I also believe you can do bad things via your characters and get away with it ;)
    .-= • Recent post by Kitty: Design Plan: Living room =-.

  4. I need a haircut similar to yours. I don’t look good when my hair is all one length. Luckily I wear it in a ponytail just about 24/7, so it doesn’t really matter, but I have been coveting some long layers/bangs lately.

    To the other point, I think writing outside of the box is definitely valuable and fun, but I’m not sure that inhibition is warranted. When leaving your comfort zone – or zone of direct experience – I think one must be quite careful. Nothing takes me out of the world that a book is trying to create than flat out inaccurate representations of something that *I* know intimately but I now realize the author hasn’t a clue about. Then I start wondering what else the author has gotten wrong, and my reading of their work can become a quest to find errors rather than an enjoyment of their craft.
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: In which I tell the girls about the birds and the bees =-.

  5. Your haircut looks lovely! :-D Mine always flips out on one side, too — even in my wedding pictures, lol. It’s personality.

  6. cute cute cute! it’s good to have awesome hair because then it’s easier to get away with dressing like a lazy ass. :) that’s how i do it.

  7. Simon-
    Yes! This doesn’t apply to just writing, although that’s obviously my focus. Haha, I should probably delete more of my photos…

    Do it! I feel so light and cheery with my new haircut.

    I agree that in a finished product, writers have to be sure they’re being faithful to whatever realities they’ve fictionalized (or else make it clear that they’re going for something different). I have to admit that as a reader I’m fairly forgiving/trusting, though. If a few details or elements are wrong, I can ignore it. But if the deeper emotional experiences ring false, I am completely sucked out of the story. I’ve started just putting those books down for good.

    Yes, Personality. Let’s go with that.

    Thanks for all the compliments, y’all! Makes up for Andy’s response: “Oh, hmm. I guess it’s nice?” :P

  8. Kristan! Love it! My hair flips out too. You’ll have to invest in the straightening iron, which is a pain sometimes, but your haircut just completely changes your face. Someone said younger, but I think more mature (not old, duh, just grown-up).
    Yes, cutting and cutting. It’s hard to do. But, you’re right. And I like writing scenarios that are very different to my own. In fact, I can’t help but do it! Flying shapeshifters and murderous wives and drunken hobos who talk like Dezzi Arnez. They populate my story worlds. hehe.
    .-= • Recent post by Sarah: Roses are Red =-.

  9. Thanks, guys!

    :( to straightening iron. But you might be right, it’s probably worth it…

    Yay for your crazy imagination! I need to steal some. :P

  10. love, Love, LOVE the new do! a sophisticated hairstyle for a sophisticated writer!!!

  11. Inspired words. I love writing “bad” characters. I try to be nice in “real life,” and write out those feelings in my meaner characters. It only sometimes works, unfortunately…
    .-= • Recent post by Jon: Creativity on Demand =-.

  12. Your hair is LOVELY! *jealous of the ability to have bangs. GRR*

    My hair curls in the same spiral on either side of my face, so when I straighten it, it does the same flip your hair does. I tend to think that my hair would rather be mathematically precise in its curls rather than conform to my standard of style. Part of me likes this. >.>
    .-= • Recent post by Erin: Brooklyn? Maybe. How thrilling! =-.

  13. I also am a fan of the judicious occasional adverb. I also think it’s okay to judiciously, occasionally use a word other than “said” in a dialogue. I haven’t run into anyone with the courage to say that out loud. “Out loud” is kind of an adverb, no?
    .-= • Recent post by murr brewster: South Dakota Legislature To The Rescue =-.

  14. Erin-
    Thank you!! Your hair is lovely too. I’ve *always* loved curls of that sort. (There was this redhead on dance team with me in high school who had them, and I absolutely coveted her hair, both style and color.)

    Occasionally and judiciously. Agreed!

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