Yesterday, I wore a white t-shirt and ripped jeans to work.
I loved the way I looked.
See, I didn’t just wear a white t-shirt and jeans. I also wore a moto jacket, ankle boots, and a turquoise teardrop necklace. I had my hair slicked back in a high ponytail. I wore eyeliner, mascara, and a hint of eye shadow.
In my opinion, I wasn’t wearing clothes. I was wearing an outfit.
Ever since I gave birth (to a healthy baby girl on June 22nd) and knew I wouldn’t be fitting into my size-2s pretty much ever again, I have been interested in cultivating my style. I wanted to take my vague appreciation for fashion and actually live like it. I looked at minimalist fashion blogs (I’m a huge minimalist in theory and a beginning minimalist in practice), created Pinterest boards, and went shopping. I knew I looked younger than my 25 years, but I also knew I could look my age if I tried. I didn’t want to get confused for a teenage mother. I didn’t want the looks of pity that show up when a too-young woman totes around a baby.
After a summer of curating, I have about 40 total articles of clothing (jeans, shirts, shoes, jackets, dresses, skirts…). I learned how to put them together, how to accessorize. I gave away my poor-fitting, over-worn tennis shoes. As a result, I am a new mother with extra baby weight who almost always loves the way she looks. It’s weird.
Now, since I have the habit of comparing everything to writing, here’s the tie-in: any words on a page is writing much in the same way that a “Team Building Exercise ’99” shirt and sweats are clothes. (Bonus points if you get the reference.) Add in metaphors, similes, resonance, and you have the accessories that make the outfit.
Hide the spit-up stains, replace the mis-matched shoes (seriously, do you know how much shoes influence the look of an outfit?!), do your hair. That’s what I’m doing to my manuscript right now.
I use way too many “it seemed like”s and “I feel like”s, even in my fourth draft. I stutter around statements that could be profound if I owned them. I make my dialogue too realistic–with “well”s and “um”s and false starts that look a lot like my daughter’s spit-up does on my brand-new shirts.
So as I continue to work on dressing up myself in everyday life, I’m in the middle of dressing up my manuscript. One example: “I feel like her wrinkles could tell me many stories and I have only heard a few.” When I wrote that line, I was really proud of it. I thought it was a beautiful way to describe her great-grandmother.
This is what it reads like now: “Her wrinkles are made of stories I won’t have enough time to hear.” Same idea, but without the stuttering and the qualifying that my first draft has. I replaced personification with metaphor, and made the sheer number of stories more obvious–it’s now not that she’s only heard a few. It’s that she’ll never get the chance to hear them all.
How about you? What do you do to dress yourself up? Your words?