I got a haircut for the first time in a while last week. And as soon as it was done, I regretted it.
I wasn’t the only one. “Why did you cut your hair?” my husband asked. “I thought you were letting it grow long.”
I spent that first day looking at it in the mirror from different directions, and admiring friends who had the patience to let their hair grow and grow… as though that would glue the chopped pieces of hair back on. I woke early the next morning and felt my stomach sink as I studied it again - had it turned orange? Why oh why was it so short?
Spoiler alert: the hair cut wasn’t terrible. It was what I asked for. And I realize there are WAY worse things that could happen. But I still regretted it.
Here’s where I went wrong… and how (of course) it applies to writing.
1) I asked for the stylist’s opinion… and valued it above my own. When I go in a salon, the hair dresser becomes the expert because, well, she is. Her hair and makeup are flawless. Her sense of fashion superb. And so I default to whatever she recommends.
I love getting opinions. And I take them all seriously. Which is sometimes good. And sometimes not so good. Because often, I know what I really want in my heart. I’m just afraid to trust it.
And this is so important when writing, especially in the very early phases of writing a book about a maybe-sort of idea. If I share too much, too soon, it is easily squashed. If I ask for too many opinions, my own ideas get smaller and smaller, and feel less and less compelling. This is one of the reasons I’ve learned to protect my work in its early stages and don’t share in writers’ groups right away.
2) I changed my decision at the last minute. I was impulsive. As soon as the hair stylist gave her opinion (at my request, I must add), I decided to go for it.
With writing, I have to be careful about being impulsive. When I finally type “The End” on a first draft, the last thing I need to do is start rewriting. I need space. Time to let the work settle in me. Time to freshen my perspective. Otherwise, I may dive into changes that take the story in the wrong direction or didn’t need to be made in the first place.
3) I focused on efficiency. Cut another inch or two off? Sure! That way, I won’t have to come right back. We’ve been frugalizing for the past few months, and this hair cut was definitely a splurge. The last thing I wanted was to have my new hairstyle look worn-down and unruly in a week or two. But efficiency doesn’t always get you where you want to be.
I love the messy first draft phase of writing because often, I can crank out thousands of words at a time. Until I can’t. If exhaustion sets in, or inspiration fades, those words don’t come easily. And most of the time, that means I need a break. A totally inefficient, unproductive break. A break that involves going for long drives or looking out the window or ducking into little shops downtown.
Efficiency is sometimes good. And sometimes not. And, when it comes to writing (and hairstyles), I just have to learn to trust when being efficient becomes inefficient.
4) I forgot that it’s not as bad as it seems. That first day with my new haircut, I was kind of mortified. I pulled my hair up, then loosed it back down, wondering what I had done.
But I had forgotten that sometimes, you need a few days or weeks to settle into a new haircut. When I finally washed my hair and dried it properly, I was surprised to see it wasn’t that terrible. It had some good points, really. And some room to grow. And it rather looked like me.
Same thing applies to a writing... especially when it comes to feedback on my writing. I have to take it in, give it some space and time, and then filter it through who I am and what I know to be true. Once I do that, I usually find the big changes that seemed impossible actually aren’t that hard.
So there you have it. Today is a new day, and I don’t mind my hair cut much at all. I suppose you could say it’s growing on me. After all, hair always does.