I am a woman conflicted.
Part of me frets to be fashionable.
I like the way I look, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Je me critique. I need to try harder, spend more money, spend more time.
Then I remember–all I can afford right now is a stream of espresso. The espresso buys me something more valuable: space to write. Hours and pages to fill. Time to work in the lively environment I crave: a bit of clatter and conversation the perfect background to ideas rising like bubbles. I am limited only by my ancient Macbook’s battery life and the closing time of the cafe.
Forget the money, anyway. The real problem is the time. There isn’t enough of it, and I’d rather spend what I’ve got writing. I am hunched over my laptop or I am scribbling unsteadily on my commute or I am seized by an idea while grocery shopping that I must labor to transcribe via a tiny qwerty keyboard.
I am squinting, biting off my lipstick. I am in the zone, my appearance of no concern.
But when I am idea-less, unfocused, it is easy to see my flaws and easy to care about them. I sit, chewing a pen, taking in my surroundings. Look at her, Mademoiselle Whoever on the sidewalk, on a date, walking a well-coiffed dog. Perfectly put-together. Look at her, frozen in laughter or coquettishness on a poster for perfume.
And me. Crumbs dot my clothing (how do you eat a croissant without this problem?). My hair is not in any arrangement you could call a ‘style.’ My nail polish is chipped. I look tired.
There’s a fix, though, for all of that. And sometimes I give it my time, determining these things a worthy concern. Truthfully, I’ve wasted much time here. I’ve been a material girl, and I do know why: it can be a relief to focus on something so concrete. Change your clothes, change your life. Shopping trips and haircuts and magazines, all of it bursting with promise.
But it’s all distraction. When I spend so much time getting ready to leave my house, so much time caring about it, I feel an undercurrent of dread.
I like looking put-together; I enjoy highly impractical shoes. But this is not what I love. This is not my passion. When my appearance gets more attention than it deserves, my real dream pleads for attention.
I want to write. That’s the real dream.
They say you’re either scared of failure or you’re scared of success. I could never determine which was true for me. Can it be both? What to do when your dream feels so fragile you’re scared to pick it up?
For a long time my writing dream was sitting pretty on a high shelf. It looked good up there, shiny. I wasn’t going to sully it with, say, hard work, risk, or failure.
It was pleasant to guard my dream like a collector’s item. Better to amuse myself with fun frivolity, things of no real consequence. I’d dust my dream off occasionally, make sure it was still there. I’d write a few pages when the mood struck–and look, I could show it to friends!
But I don’t want a ceramic cherub for a dream.
That means work. That means time. That means sacrifice, letting some things fall by the wayside (like maybe my impossible hair). That means learning to silence the distractions. When the voice pops up, the one that says that my appearance (or whatever distraction du jour) is what deserves my time and energy, I tell it to shut up. I glance at my harried reflection in the window of a designer store with a shrug and a smile. I keep working.
I’m probably not ready for my close-up.
But I’m a writer.