The cop walked around he road construction signs to my car. He looked miffed at my questioning expression through my rolled-down window.
“What’s next after this detour?” I asked.
Even when I’m not rushing to work, it’s become one of my pet peeves: The clatter of road-construction sign that detours you down some unknown road, then the signs magically disappear and leave you doing U-turns in someone’s farmyard.
“You go up this hill,” the cop said. “Then you’ll see–” He stopped.
Standing there at my car, his lips twitched. He was trying not to laugh. At me.
Once again, I was driving to work with a head full of large, blue hair curlers.
He mustered his cop-serious voice. “–Then you’ll see the signs after that.”
“Thanks very much,” I said.
“Yeah. Good luck!” he said, with a dip of the head that said that a woman like me needed all the luck I could get.
Driving to work, I imagined his after-work anecdotes, how he’d entertain his fellow officers with the tale about the middle-aged woman (me!) all curleredup like his old Aunt Millie on Saturday nights.
In that imagined conversation, I tried to explain myself. “Officer, the curlers are really for art. You see, I’m a writer with a day job.”
My hair curlers buy me some extra time in the morning. They’re just one of those tradeoffs, one of those tweaks that I make to the time clock of my busy life. The tradeoff goes like this: Curlers in the car equals no blow-dry which equals more morning writing time. Simple enough. Right?
It wasn’t always like this–at least, not until that day when I woke up–really woke up–to the fiscal realities of a post-recession, downsized America. For me, this also meant waking up to the financial realities of being a creative writer in a culture that has a hard time funding its public libraries or school arts programs. Before I went out there and got me a salaried day job, I loved writing and publishing. And my favorite way to finance that writing-and-publishing life was to take on a hodge-podge of freelance gigs.
In hindsight, I put off the real job thing because I was in love with that Hollywood image of the bohemian woman at her writing desk. I was Flannery O’Connor and Iris Murdoch and Virginia Woolf. I was a woman who was supposed to care about far deeper things than how my hair looked. But as much as I loved that writer thing, I also loved eating three square meals a day. I liked staying out of debtor’s prison. And I adored sleeping. And trust me: Sleep eludes those who worry about Visa payments.
Mind you, I’ve never been one of those grunge writers, either. I’ve never been one of those authors who gives a public reading or teaches a workshop or sits on a writers’ panels in a faded T-shirts and crumpled chinos. In my pre-day-job days, my public appearances merited a good long primping session before the bathroom mirror.
But not anymore. Now, I was one of the thousands of creative writers who dances that waltz between making art and making a living. Or for many of us, it’s a delicate little three-step between parenting, writing and working.
I generally avoid those gender-based axioms that say men and women spring from different planets or will react antithetically to the same life situation. But I believe that women have a talent for seeing and assessing the entire galaxy of our lives–the big stars and the small. Then, once we’ve mapped the entire constellation, we find ways to fill in the black spots–to make life better. In other words, we make tradeoffs.
For me, I could choose to make beautiful words or I could choose to make my hair pretty.
The words won. They had to.
So I grew out my hair and I stopped blow-drying and I bought those blue Velcro hair curlers. I also bought some easily coordinated work clothes that I usually set out the night before. On those days when I have an early morning meeting at work, I shower the night before. I apply my lipstick and eye-liner in front of the mirror in my office. And, although my softening midlife midriff could use it, I will not join a gym because I know that those clanking machines would short-circuit every creative thought from my mind.
So finding and making time to write means taking a hard and deep look at your own life and lifestyle to figure out what works for you.
Oh, and here’s a writer’s tip that really works: Remember to take out the hair curlers before you walk into your workplace.
What about you? What have you given up to buy yourself some personal writing time?
“Wearing my hair curlers to work. Hey, it’s art, ya know?”
About the Author (Author Profile)
I’m an Irish writer (County Mayo) now living on Boston’s North Shore.
My second novel, Dance Lessons has been published by Syracuse University Press. Read more about the book or order your copy here.
As well as writing, I lead writing workshops at various schools, arts organizations, libraries and colleges in New England and beyond. For information on my programs and workshops, visit the Mass. Cultural Council artist profile.
As well as working, writing and teaching, I get out and about now and again. I belong to local and regional arts and writing organizations, including the New Hampshire Writers Project, the Cape Cod Writers Center, Irish Network Boston and the American Conference for Irish Studies.
I travel back to Ireland frequently.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Reason vs. Heart: Still Tugging : Women Writers, Women Books | January 15, 2012
- Work, Writing, Hair Do’s — It’s enough to make your hair curl | writerwithadayjob | August 25, 2011