Today I’ve decided to take a wee break from the scheduled programming of Monday Man. Don’t fret, gentle viewers. He shall return next week.
This morning I woke up and looked into the mirror. Then I promptly flung myself backward into the door, banging my head on my towel rack. Who was that monster?!
Okay, so the above paragraph was exaggerated. And I do have a bit of an excuse for the fact that I have not showered in a couple days (you can’t smell me, nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyaaaaaah-nyah). I’ve been quite sick, and when I haven’t been at work, I’ve been curled up in bed, smacking anyone who tried to move my tissues out of reach and guzzling water and Clementines with equal fervor. I will shower at some point today, fear not.
That little mirror incident prompted some interesting speculation. I do not intend to show up in New York City in my George Mason sweats and my rather-shlubby-though-infinitely-comfy Victoria’s Secret long sleeved tee shirt in two weeks, so that little look-see in the mirror made me think about how I am going to present myself when I am paraded by scores of agents at the conference.
And then it made me think about something I’ve spent many years avoiding: the concept of image.
I am in partial denial that I’m even writing this blog right now, and if you ask me about it tomorrow, I might ask what on earth you think you’re talking about. Just so you know we’re on the same page here.
I’ve always been more than a little bewildered about the idea of a person’s “image.” What I mean by this is of course the public face of a person of note — or a person of no note, for that matter. It’s the part of us we show to the world. Whether we mean to have one or not, it’s there. And it’s why a sudden change in image can leave people baffled and sometimes catty. People can be awfully silly about image, which is the main reason I’ve mostly shunned it. I wear what I want and don’t care much about fashion.
I saw LCD Soundsystem in concert a few years back. The front man came out in sweats and a raggedy tee, and I said bravo. But in hindsight, I’m not really sure what he was trying to say by doing that. Probably that he wanted to be in bed — and in that case, why did I give him my money?
Whether I agree with the fundamentals of having an image or not (I think I’ve just said that I don’t), I also believe that to an extent, we have to live with the way things are and work with the system until we have enough influence to buck it. You can caterwaul about being a rebel all you want, but most people won’t care to listen unless you’ve already established yourself as someone with some credibility — unless you have an image they believe. Tricky, tricky.
I took a bunch of art classes when I was growing up. I always got mad at all the rules. I found them boring and stifling — but I really wasn’t that good at art. I found later that all the abstract artists who will sell a dot on a canvas for $200,000 all had to learn how to draw a tree, how to draw in perspective, and how to follow all those rules before they could get away with breaking them. I’m sure even Picasso could have drawn a convincing, realistic (albeit boring) rendition of my living room. He learned to draw reality before bending it.
That’s more or less what I concluded about image. No matter how far my measly influence someday reaches, in order to make it go anywhere, I have to show some concern with the image I put out into the world. Though it makes me cringe a bit to say so, I can’t air my dirty laundry (not that I really wanted to do that, or that there’s anything scandalous to be found). I won’t tirade about politics or any major hot button issues, because I know well enough that I enjoy a wide variety of fiction by diverse authors, and I don’t feel like alienating someone who might enjoy my fiction just because they happen to be a different color on the political spectrum than I am.
Back to the mirror. Because I have a uniform at work, I wear pretty much the same thing every day. Dark rinse blue jeans, black button down. Ponytail.
I know. How utterly boring. I have a whole closet full of clothing, but I don’t often wear it, because I’m pretty much a homebody when I’m not at work. That’s what happens when you plunk an introvert into a very extroverted job description. Regardless of the fact that my George Mason sweats are my usual home attire (do you pity my husband yet?), I do have a sense of my own style. So as I prepare to go to this conference in two and a half weeks, I am thinking about what sort of image I’ll be exuding. I write urban fantasy. I write vampires and witches and shapeshifters and seers. My worlds are filled with magic and some intrigue, a bit of romance, and a lot of grit. Because of that, it might be disingenuous for me to show up in a florally pink fluffball of a dress with four inch pumps and a designer poodle. (I’d have to rent the poodle.) (And the rest of it, for that matter.)
Does this mean I have to show up in fishnets and pleather with chains hanging off of me? No. But the more I consider this, the more I think that the way I dress should be a factor in how I present myself to agents. I like to wear vintage-y stuff sometimes, but I like lace and corsets and edgy little tops. I haven’t gone shopping in quite a while, but this seems to be a time to drag my sweatpants-bedecked bum to the mall. I’ve also called my hairdresser, who has most likely forgotten my existence in the last two and a half years.
My hair won’t be returning to that length (at least not yet…), but I’m aiming for something a little more interesting than straight down to my waist. In short, I’m prepping more than just my writing for the conference. It’s weird. I know.
Ever since I started writing, it’s been something I do by myself, alone in a room, usually in varying stages of fashion. Now I’m about to venture out into the light of the writing business world, and I have to remind myself that writing is a business where I am the brand. So I better be nice and shiny.
Have any of you writers thought about the image you put out there? Are you as weirded out by that as I am? Readers and non-writers, what do you think about image? How does it apply to everyone’s lives?
I’m curious to hear your thoughts so I don’t feel quite this vain. 🙂
I’ll leave you with a goofy video. Enjoy!