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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Importance of Words, a Reminder

(If you had trouble opening the Scribblings scene, it's because I forgot to add the link. Ooops.)

After months of letting my hair grow, until it was long enough to rub against my shoulders, a location it hasn't touched since I graduated from high school and left Indiana, I was sick of it. It took too long to style, and if I didn't blow it dry, I felt ugly. I called and made an appointment with whoever was available at 7:30 in the evening. Turned out to be Jennifer, an Asian woman whose long hair looked like Anne Hathaway's after she Finds Fashion in The Devil Wears Prada. I tried to describe what my haircut had been for years: short on the sides, a little height on top, fringe-y bangs.

I let her do her thing. I care a lot about how my hair looks, but I figure: if she messes up, it'll always grow out.

And when she was done, it didn't look like my old style at all. She'd given me a short bob. Cute, but not what I was expecting. That's when I realized, when you start with longish hair, "short" means "up." Starting with short hair, "short" means "in" or "close to the sides." I'll see what it looks like tomorrow, when I style it myself. In the meantime, it's an object lesson that communication is hard, even on the simplest subjects.

Think of the misunderstandings you've had when talking to someone. Different background, different gender, different education; everything can interfere. And all the trouble people get into when they go to e-mail, where the back-and-forth can cause hurt feelings faster than you can say "r u crazy."

Conventional publishing gives you no chance to say to the reader, "You following me here? Get what I mean?" That's why a standard piece of advice is to show drafts to family and friends. They often can see what we know but haven't actually gotten down on the page. Make sure you pick the right people as readers--ones that are not too nice ("Oh, this is fabulous just the way you have it") and not too critical ("Hey, you're crazy for thinking anyone would pay good money to publish this crap").

Sometimes, you come up short on all sides. When that happens, give your story some time. When you pull out the manuscript again, you'll have grown better at seeing how to shape it.

category: craft


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