Thursday, August 14, 2008

How getting a hair cut is like writing, and why it results in panic attacks

I went to get my hair cut today. Such an innocuous thing, you wouldn't think it would be more than a blip in my day. And yet.... it was.

For one, I just wanted a trim. A little off the ends. And the lady cuts it straight across. Then she pulls it all up on top of my head and it's uneven, so she cuts it there. Then she takes sections straight out to the side, and they are uneven so she cuts again. No matter which way she looks at it, they are uneven, and she trims some more. It is like this every time I get a hair cut. It's amazing I come out with any hair at all. AND YET: it reminds me of the editing process. I can read my writing and edit a bit here and there. I look at it again, and I edit some more. No matter how many times I come back to it, there is always something to change. At some point a writer just has to stand away from it and say, I think that's enough. If I keep at it there will be nothing left.

While I was getting my hair cut the radio was playing rather loudly. And David Cook came on, singing "Time of My Life", which is really a theme song for anyone who has a dream and is chasing it. For some reason, it made me think of the query I am working on, and sending it off the those agents who are my secret favorites, and then getting a reply. And in the middle of the song, with my hair sopping wet and the hairdresser chopping away, I suddenly had a panic attack. Not a full-on one, but one in which my heart was beating so hard it actually hurt, and I couldn't breathe because it felt like someone was standing on my chest, and I wanted to rip the cape off and run for my life. The closeness of the end, where the control is completely out of my hands, is impossibly close. While I am writing, the control is mine. When I am not, I give the control to someone else.

I cannot do this! I cannot do this! What if I totally can't make it as a writer? What if I do?

When I write, I am totally in the moment, in the writing, and I am focused and I drive forward with confidence in the story I have to tell. And the minute I stop, it all caves in. All the insecurities I feel bubble to the surface, and I can't breathe.

There is a relief in this break from writing. A much needed vacation from the pressure of balancing writing and my other duties. I can't wait to lay on the beach, soak up the sun, read some really good books and not have the pressure to have a word count hanging over my head. And yet that word count is the stability in my writing, the stabilizing force that keeps me from despairing.

I am relieved to be on vacation. And at the same time it creates a stress I don't have when I'm writing.

Nothing's ever easy, is it?


  1. No, but I'll forward the advice our own dear HTH gave me.

    You will panic, and you will wonder if you are good enough. You are. A Writer. So although you might doubt at times, stick to the plan and everything will work out.

    I'm reading Babs and she is brilliant. I am a picky reader. I would buy her.

    You are going to be able to do this.


  2. Isn't it amazing how the writing follows you? Cutting your hair, in the music ... Will you miss the writing on vacation? Have a great time!

  3. Joanne, it totally follows me everywhere! I can make a writing analogy to almost everything. It drives my husband nuts. :)

    I will miss it on vacation. I'm so used to thinking about the story 24/7. On the other hand, I'm a teensy bit burned out, and a very small break might be nice. We'll see... I may come back with a laptop full of sand! :)

    JKB - I hope Babs ends up being all you wanted her to be...I think I lost a little of her voice towards the end. I may have to fix that in edits. Is it too much medical? I want complete honesty!

    Thanks for taking her on!

  4. You're a writer. Panic attacks are normal.
    Get used to them lol!

  5. Patricia - I thought of you today as I was bobbing in gorgeous waters and digging my feet into soft white sand, and I thought, other than scrubbing barnacles off a hull and digging poop out a half inch tube, is this what your life is like?? :)

    Hope that book is coming along. I can't wait to read it!