Whatever the stereotype is about book worms not knowing how to dress is a little too true for me. I can pick out clothes, but accesorizing, applying more than three-minutes’ worth of makeup, and keeping my hair looking decent for an entire 12–24 hour period are beyond me.

Still, I can’t help trying every hair product out there, sure that someday, if I ask enough people and try enough things, my hair will look like the models.

Here’s my current collection of what it takes to make my hair look halfway to decent:

And for whatever ridiculous reason, I’ve been thinking about this in terms of writing. See, it’s not just about the product; it’s about experimenting to find how much to use, when to apply it (on wet hair? damp hair? dry hair?), and what order to use each product in. Lately I’ve been putting in Super Sculpt, mousse, thickening cream, and pomade, followed by blow drying, volumizing hair spray (and yep, I’m killing the environment with the aerosol — crap), straightener, then anti-frizz finishing spray (more ozone depletion there, too).

Maybe I’m only giving these details in hopes that someone who knows something about hair will leave a comment saying, “No, no, no. For starters, you need to be buying this other brand, and you definitely need to get straightener X, which will make all the difference.” Or something. Kind of like the time I used a grocery store box of brunette dye and my hair went red in a gross way, and then one of my students said, “No, no, no. Never use brunette dye from a grocery store. You have to go to a salon shop and get the ingredients to mix it yourself.”

Anyway, the point is that finding your writing process feels a lot like this sometimes. It’s trial and error. You learn what doesn’t work faster than you learn what does. You ask for help along the way, attending writing workshops and conferences to see what tools other people find useful.

But of course, just like my stringy thin, semiwavy-in-a-nonsexy-way hair is different from other people’s thick ’fros or out-of-control curls or other challenges, you’re still the one who knows your creative process best, even if you haven’t perfected it yet. You have to keep experimenting, keep trying different techniques until the result is what you want. You can collect tips, but you still have to work them out yourself.

Currently, I’ve got the start-with-the-characters thing going on, and that’s working pretty well for me, followed by sort of stalking them for a while to see what’s up in the story and writing a blind draft (no outline). I apply a powerful straightener after that, flattening out the kinks, but then it takes a ton of volumizing after that to flesh out the scenes again (once I’m sure I’ve got the right ones in place). Of course, frequent cuts are necessary just like with hair to keep it healthy-looking. Also, there’s the occasional plucking of gray hairs: removing an entire character or something that’s just not working.

Okay, yeah, this whole post was a stretch. But you get what I’m saying, right?

Now, seriously: any hair tips?

Leave a comment!

8 thoughts on “Hair Products and Writing Tools

  1. Lol! I like the link between hair care and writing. You sound like you have similar hair to me…and I am really going to disappoint you but I have no idea how to make it look great….except (small tip) I did enjoy the volume and handle-ability of Regis something or other…hang on a sec…Regis Design Line Weightless Gel. I only had to put some on on wet hair and blow dry 🙂 Simple and worked (for me)


  2. What a funny comparison! I just keep my hair clean and it seems to sort itself out well enough. Either I have a high ugly tolerance or I lucked out with accommodating hair. Makes me wonder if my creative process is dangerously lackadaisical too~


    1. LOL. You are definitely lucky. I let my hair go natural two nights a week after the gym (what’s the point in styling before bed?) and it’s not pretty. At all. But if your writing process is as smooth and straight as your hair, I think you’re in good shape. 😉


  3. I love the hair/writing angle. Very appropriate and funny. I can’t help thinking that mine needs to have a complete makeover. 🙂 My writing, not my hair—that is already in progress. Slow, slow progress.

    And I loved The Thief. I read it this morning. Thanks for the suggestion.


    1. Don’t you wonder what Megan Whalen Turner’s process is like? I mean, four years per book, and yet those twists are worth it! I wonder how much she plans them ahead and how much they just happen organically. I’m excited for you to read the next two! Each one just gets better.


  4. I wish I could figure out what to do with my hair as well. Sigh.

    I remember someone saying once that there was no right way to write a book, only things that worked for others. If they work, then that is the right way to write. If those suggestions don’t work for you, then keep trying. It helped a lot when I kept trying to outline and it wasn’t working for me.

    Now if only there was a hair care product that would work on making my first draft less…first drafty.


    1. Agreed! I see pros and cons to it. It’s nice that you get to do it your own way, but it sure sucks that nobody can tell you what your own way is. But who knows? Maybe working some mousse into that first draft is a great approach and it’s just that no one’s tried it yet! 😉


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