Great Writing Requires an Awesome Hat

Awesome Hats

This piece originally ran as part of my Sunday Brunch column in All Things Girl on 12 January 2014.

A few days ago, I made a post on Facebook about how while most of the country had been in the throes of a polar vortex which made temperatures plunge into the sub-zero ranges, I had been in the throes of a writing vortex. I gave the credit for my recent habit of writing in excess of 5,000 words a day to a green hat my friend Jeremy made for me several years ago.

It’s true that this particular hat has been my headgear of choice this winter, but it’s not the first “writing hat” I’ve ever had. It’s also true that was not my first-ever writing vortex, but it’s the longest, most productive such period I’ve had in probably a decade, and that includes at least four successful completions of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

For me, both the hats and the vortices began with Jo March, my favorite character from Little Women, which I read for the first time when I was six. At first my mother read the chapters aloud to me at bedtime, but eventually I grew impatient to know what came next, and I improved my reading ability so I could find out. That was the last book we read together in that way; now we just trade books back and forth.

In any case, the image of Jo with her special writing clothes on, scribbling away in her attic atelier, is one that instantly entranced me, and I’ve been using my own form of writerly cos-play to keep the muse active ever since. Sometimes that includes whole outfits; but mostly it involves hats.

My first writing hat was a black velvet beret, big enough for me to tuck all my hair into (at a time when I had long hair, even) and adorned by a red bow. At least, it had a red bow until the bow fell off, and after that I decorated it with a succession of funky pins – gold stars, silver fairies, a bar pin featuring a jazz trio – things of that ilk. I wore that hat forever, and not just to write. It was a trusty friend through my high school and college years, until I finally killed it by accidentally melting it to death with a curling iron.

In retrospect, the curling iron vandalism might have been a sort of homage to Jo March as well, albeit an unintentional one.

My second writing hat was also black and velvet, but this time it was a baseball cap. I love baseball caps because when my hair is long enough for a pony-tail, I can stick it through the gap above the adjustment tab. This one was pretty plain, but I jazzed it up with a giant dragon-fly pin. Once, I wore it to work (it was a hat-friendly workplace) and my supervisor looked at it and said, “That dragon-fly is scary. And awesome. Carry on.”

I still have that hat, but I don’t really wear it to write any more, mostly because my hair is too short for a pony-tail, but partly because that dragon-fly pin is really heavy.

When I was performing with the Dallas ComedySportz troupe several years ago, I shifted my usual headgear from hats to bandannas – do-rags in the current parlance – collecting them in a wide variety of colors and styles. My favorites include a black one with lavender and green dragon-flies, and a white one with black and gold paisley patterns. I like these “kerchiefs,” as my grandmother would have called them, because they keep my hair out of my face without hurting my scalp (like a too-tight or too-heavy pony-tail can) or being too hot or heavy. I also like them because they make pirate fantasies much more accessible, but that’s another story.

So, why am I now wearing a green hat that can be a watch cap or a beret? Well, first, my friend made it for me, and I miss his daily presence in my life, so this hat is a connection to another very cool, creative person. The other reason is that, until yesterday, it’s been legitimately cold here in Texas (and not just in a cold-for-Texas kind of way – it was 23 degrees earlier this week.), and when you keep your head warm, you retain your body heat. It’s never been a secret that I like to have cool air when I sleep, but when I’m awake and writing, I prefer to be comfortably warm, and the hat has helped keep me that way.

Unlike Jo March in her garret, I don’t use the position of my hat to signal the state of my muse or telegraph my mood, but the presence (or absence) of some kind of headgear absolutely alerts my husband to whether or not my “genius is burning.”

Can great writing be accomplished without an awesome hat? Of course.

But wearing a hat, and channeling a favorite character (even if it’s a character of your own creation) makes writing – great or not – a lot more fun.

“Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and “fall into a vortex” as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for till that was finished she could find no peace. Her “scribbling suit” consisted of a black woolen pinafore on which she could wipe her pen at will, and a cap of the same material, adorned with a cheerful red bow, into which she bundled her hair when the decks were cleared for action. This cap was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of her family, who during these periods kept their distance, merely popping in their heads semi-occasionally, to ask, with interest, “Does genius burn, Jo?” They did not always venture even to ask this question, but took an observation of the cap, and judged accordingly. If this expressive article of dress was drawn low upon the forehead, it was a sign that hard work was going on; in exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askew; and when despair seized the author it was plucked wholly off, and cast upon the floor. At such times the intruder silently withdrew; and not until the red bow was seen gaily erect upon the gifted brow, did any one dare address Jo.”

~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Sunday Brunch: August Nocturne

eclipse

 

When All Things Girl still existed, I had a regular column called “Sunday Brunch.” Well, the core team of ATG launched a new ezine, Modern Creative Life, in March, and I’m writing “Sunday Brunch” over there once a month. Here’s an excerpt from this month’s post:

With the flip of a calendar page (or a swipe of finger on a smartphone) July is gone for another year, and it is August, my month. The first summer month when, even though the sun is still reluctant to set, the days are discernably shorter, and the nights incrementally longer.

I’ve always been attuned to the night. While some people are morning people, happy and chirpy at first light, the only time I typically see dawn is when I haven’t yet been to bed. I have never been afraid of darkness; rather I crave it.

I come by it naturally.

The night before I was born, there was a full moon and an eclipse. If that doesn’t lock you into a special relationship with nighttime, I don’t know what does. (Recently, I asked my mother if she remembered any of that, and she reminded me that she’d been a little preoccupied with being in labor.)

You can read the rest of the post at Modern Creative Life, and if you’re so inclined, consider submitting an essay, poem, or piece of short fiction to our next issue, which launches in September and has the theme of  Wisdom.

 

 

Image copyright: solerf / 123RF Stock Photo

 

Sunday Brunch (Random Musings)

I stayed up too late writing and ended up hung over on words and ideas and lack of sleep and desperate for naps and tall cool glasses of water, which I took in alternate sessions.

The ice machine has ceased making ice. Again. I am an ice junkie. This is a problem.

I miss the days when I spent my weekends jumping from book to book, like stepping stones in a lazy creek.

The weather is playing tricks on me, looking murky and cool, but really being hot. FOUL! I call FOUL!!

(Fuzzy said he might steal my exclamation-point key!)

Sunday Brunch: Random

Random things about today:
Leftover birthday cake for breakfast, a mug of steaming coffee to cut the sweetness and wake my brain cells.
When you’re a freelancer weekends are arbitrary, anyway.

I read and write and nap and watch bad television and cuddle dogs.

“Are you hungry?” my husband asks.

What he really means is, “I’m hungry, but I don’t want to make anything so I’ll just sit and starve until you can be coaxed into the kitchen.”

“I’ll make an omelet if you let me watch the end of this movie.”

“What channel?”

“Hallmark.”

“Use lots of cheese.”

“Okay.”

Sunday Brunch: School Figures

natural_skates

It’s my turn for Sunday Brunch again over at All Things Girl.

Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve been thinking, lately, about how I used to be a daily blogger, and now my blog is nearly an afterthought. I still write every day, but it’s typically writing for a specific purpose, not just chatty musing. I don’t keep a journal, partly because I don’t understand the point in writing things no one will ever read, and partly because without an audience to keep me accountable, I find other things that pull my focus.

But daily blogging, in many ways, was my version of skating school figures. They’re not particularly pretty to the uninformed, but they teach discipline, help you hone technique, give you stamina…and sometimes you do something when practicing a basic figure that informs or inspires a larger piece – leads you to your long program.

You can read the rest of this post HERE.

Image Copyright: vkovalcik / 123RF Stock Photo

Sunday Brunch: The Art of Procrastination

ritual bath

My Sunday Brunch post is up at All Things Girl. Here’s an excerpt:

Here is an example of how not-writing works in my brain:

‘I should be working on Sunday Brunch. But I don’t know what to write about. There are all those notes on the post-Odile piece about getting news from fishing reports. Fishing reports. Oh, there’s a new episode of the Seascapes podcast tonight. Tonight. Dinner. Fish. Salmon. There’s salmon in the freezer. Is it wild-caught? Of course it is, why would I buy anything else? What should I make with it? I think we have beets and yams. There was that recipe I saw in that magazine. Beets and yams in hash. Hash. Hash-browns. We have leftover hash-brown casserole. Maybe I should eat something. If I eat I’ll be able to focus better. Focus. Film. Movie. Stephen King’s IT is in my Amazon queue. Tim Curry was so creepy in that movie. Tim Curry. Clue. Wadsworth. One plus two plus two plus one. No, it’s one plus one plus two plus one. One. Singular Sensation. Musical. Rocky Horror. Time Warp. Time. Ack! I should be working on Sunday Brunch.’

So, yeah, that’s my brain on…not-words, I guess.

Read the rest of the piece HERE

Image Copyright:poznyakov / 123RF Stock Photo

Welcome Autumn

autumn coffee

Autumn has always been my favorite season, and even though it doesn’t technically begin until tomorrow night, I wrote about it for Sunday Brunch over at All Things Girl this week. You can read it THERE or you can listen to it on my podcast HERE.

I’ve been a bit off-kilter this last week, staying up too late writing, waiting for updates from my parents who live in La Paz, BCS, Mexico and weathered Hurricane Odile last weekend (they still don’t have power, but Los Cabos is nearly flattened, so it’s all relative).

I pre-ordered the new iPhone 6 plus and it arrived on Friday, and I’m already in love, but I spent a good chunk of yesterday downgrading my iPad Air away from iOS 8 because iOS 8 breaks Audiobus, which means that podcasting apps don’t work.

I have lines to record for two different projects, but my voice is icky. Tomorrow is my studio day. Someone hold me to it.

It’s hard to believe September has just zoomed by and we’re almost into October.

I love fall.

Also? I’m ready for the mosquitoes to die.

Sunday Brunch: That 70’s Summer

Slumber Party

My latest Sunday Brunch piece is up at All Things Girl. We’re filling the blog, while we continue to rebuild the rest of our site since it was hacked – badly – in June.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

If the “slumber party” was small – me and just one or two friends – we’d set up camp in my bedroom. If the group was larger, we’d take over the den or the living room. I’m sure we watched movies, but since VCRs were not yet commonplace, and DVDs hadn’t even been invented, but what I remember are the games and stories.

Slumber party games when I was seven, eight, and nine, were still pretty innocent, and the favorite thing to play was “Light as a Feather; Stiff as a Board.” There are many versions of it, and many explanations for why it becomes possible for four girls to lift a fifth using just two fingers each, but the reality is that as much as, as children, we wanted to pretend it was magic, the chant just helps to unify everyone, and the rest is basic physics.

The rest of the piece can be found HERE.

Image Copyright: creatista / 123RF Stock Photo

Dog Days of Podcasting: Sunday Brunch – Mail Call

letterboxes-615

Is it technically Sunday Brunch if I record it at 6:30 PM? Do I really care? The answer to both questions is NO!

The piece itself is the Sunday Brunch piece from 26 August 2012. You can read it, listen to it on SoundCloud, or play it in the applet below.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/107216257″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Dog Days of Podcasting

Dog Days of Podcasting: Sunday Brunch – Isn’t It Pretty?

Dog Days of Podcasting

Every other Sunday, I write a column called “Sunday Brunch” for the ezine All Things Girl. Regular readers of this site have seen me link to it before.

Today, for my DDoP entry, I picked the Sunday Brunch entry from 17 February 2013, and recorded it, with a bit of extemporaneous book-ending.

You can listen to the recording at SoundCloud or play it in the applet below.

If you want to read the original column, you can find it here.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/104966247″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]