I didn't have to hear to know what was going on. The first woman got her belly and her slumping shoulders circled. Big X's came next, making it clear how offensive this was. Then out came the woman, "fixed" with a few nice clothes and a big smile. The next woman got a box drawn around her middle, indicating her non-hourglass shape. And out she came, too, fixed and happy.
It seemed so...sad to me. I think because I couldn't hear the sound, I saw it for what it was: "You're not good enough as is. Let's fix you with spanks and a belt and some heels! And make sure to smile about it, because now you look better and somehow that means you are more valuable."
Yeah, I'm being dramatic. But it totally rubbed me the wrong way. How does any girl survive this mess? I mean, we are HORRIFIED when we see girls picking apart pictures of themselves, obsessing over a non-existent pooch, a "weird" nose, and yet here is a whole segment on a national morning show doing the exact. same. thing.
Now I'm not saying it's wrong to want to look nice. I like my heels very much. I've caved to the skinny jean (yes, I confess). But this attitude of "fixing" and "covering up" is what gets me. There is a huge difference between dressing well and feeling pretty, and dressing well to cover up your flaws. Our bodies aren't flawed—they are ours, and they are unique and beautiful.
Just like our stories.
I know, I'm totally lame for relating this to writing. But it really did get me thinking about my work, about editing in particular. Last year, in the pit of self-doubt and over-criticism, I didn't edit my work to make it shine, I edited it to cover up and fix all the things I saw wrong with it.
It's a subtle difference that makes a huge impact. One focuses on the positive, while the other is inherently negative. Focusing on how bad I was at writing made the process unnecessarily miserable. I fell into comparing, and self-loathing, and had a lot of hardcore pity parties. The more I tried to hide what a horrible writer I was, the more I hated what I wrote. The more I found wrong. The more I just wanted to give up entirely because I'd never, ever be good enough.
After a lot of soul-searching and all that good stuff, I was able to see what I was doing to my writing. I've been able to change my attitude about my books, to see them for the beautiful things they are. Editing isn't about hiding flaws anymore, it's about making my book shine. And that has made all the difference.
*claps* I love this post for all the different things you mention. Girls being themselves. Making your writing shine. I'll remember that last bit when I'm getting in on edits. "Make it shine, don't just cover up the flaws"ReplyDelete
I'm all about connecting fashion with writing, nice tie in. Hiding your flaws versus buffing them out IS the proper way to edit your book to shine. I like that concept, especially for me now...in the throws editing. I'll tuck your "make it shine" speech in my pocket and remember what I'm really doing here. Thanks for the pep talk.ReplyDelete
(Wondering, would you like to guest judge a writting contest im having?)
Read my books, as fun as that would be, I'm afraid I'm a ridiculously slow reader and probably shouldn't commit to extra. I, uh, still have crit partners waiting for me...and it's been like five months. Yes, I'm that bad.ReplyDelete
Somewhere as a teenager I finally realized that if I tried to change everything about myself I would no longer be me, and that would be a tragedy. Writing goes the same way. We should be trying to improve who we are, not change who we are.ReplyDelete
Seconded on both accounts.ReplyDelete
I had a professor who said, "what you focus on expands." Meaning, if you focus on the negative, it will seem to expand. So, duh, focus on the positive and let that expand.
This is brilliant. I agree with you, that TV segment sounds awful. I'm all for polishing up to make things shine, but like you said, "fixing" implies that something is "wrong," and that's a confidence killer right there. I think we miss that subtle distinction between polishing and fixing so many times, and I think that's why so many people get discouraged-- both in writing and in life. Thanks for having great insight yet again.ReplyDelete
Ditto what Riv Re and Sierra said.ReplyDelete
"It's a subtle difference that makes a huge impact. One focuses on the positive, while the other is inherently negative."ReplyDelete
I love this line in particular and I think your comparison between fashion make-overs and writing make-overs is spot-on. I don't think it stops there, either. We live in a fairly shiny culture, and the emphasis more often falls on make-overs than do-overs.
It is harder to dig deep and nurture the positive than it is to slap on a coat of gloss and bury the rest. Thanks for the reminder.
I love the comparison! I have three little girls and I HATE when I see stuff like that. I mean, I know women want to look their best, but gosh, girls are always watching their mothers and other women they admire. We have to be careful!ReplyDelete
I really like the idea of learning to accept your writing for what it is. It's just like trying to fit into the wrong crowd at school. Sometimes I see another writer's work and think, "Man, I wish I could write like that! My story is nothing like that." But my story is good in it's own way. It's its own kind of beautiful. :)
I've been here recently, and that's why I'm working on making the book sing. When I can hear music in my head from reading a scene, it's good, no need to change it again . . . because really, we've all got the same words to play with, it's just how we use them on the board that's different.ReplyDelete
Once when I was home for an extended illness, I saw a week's worth of talk shows on which people were being made over. They made everyone look the same: same haircut, same makeup, same blazer. The women said they were so happy.ReplyDelete
Then came the day when they made over "rebellious teens" who did not want to be made over--their mothers wanted it. Out came the girls with the same haircut and blazer that the grown women had gotten. But the girls were not smiling in their "after" shots. Some of them were even crying.
I think the best changes come from the inside out, and that show was a big example of why, because those teen makeovers were so clearly imposed from the outside.
Amen. Great post! And, this has come at a really good time for me ;)ReplyDelete
I'm currently editing my manuscript as well, so this is very helpful for me - especially since recently I've been very critical about my story, wondering in which ways I could somehow "make it better". Comparing yourself to others, whether your physical appearance or just your writing, is never healthy.ReplyDelete
I'll try to keep this in mind as I complete the editing stage of my novel:
"Editing isn't about hiding flaws anymore, it's about making my book shine."
Thanks for posting this. =)
Amazing post as always :)ReplyDelete
Bravo! Well said!ReplyDelete
Well said! I totally agree about changing your view.ReplyDelete
What resonated with me was what you said about self-loathing and doubt. I have two little girls that I'm trying to show that they are beautiful and strong and capable. Yet at the same time I doubt and I fear and I compare. It's hard to teach them not to doubt themselves when I doubt myself. I desperately want to show them how important it is to follow their dreams...even if they don't always come true. But mostly, I want them to see someone who believes, not only in himself, but in them. Glad I found your post.ReplyDelete
Well said. It's not about fixing. It's about perfecting what you have. :-)ReplyDelete
Fantastic post! I really like the comparison between styling and writing, it's always best to focus on the positives when dealing with subjective topics. The amount of negative media that is given to people's outfits is insane! It's completely unnecessary. As for writing, I try to stick to the idea that if I have something written that needs hiding, then it actually needs re-writing! Not being afraid to make massive cuts and focus on the gems has made the experience much more enjoyable for me :)ReplyDelete
Lots to think about here. I agree with you. We, as woman, are constantly bombarded with tv shows, advertisements and products that make us feel bad about who we are. I was at a pharmacy with my son last week and I pointed out to him that every single item on the cash register counter was aimed at making women feel bad about what they look like.ReplyDelete
As for editing to make your writing shine - what a brilliant idea. I have never thought of presenting it that way to my students before. They hate the editing process. I reckon presenting it with your spin would be brilliant.
Thanks for your post.
Great post. The way we view or process our environment and ourselves definitely affects our mental state.ReplyDelete
Love the post. So right.ReplyDelete
p.s. word verification: eatiness
Weird, huh? So much of body image is knotted up with food issues for women& girls...*cue twilight zone theme*
Polish not, fix. Right on. (And write on.) :)
One of the many things I tell myself is that, if I'm reading it and I think it's complete garbage, I'm revising it at the wrong time. I think everyone goes through periods where they think they're stuff is perfect and where they think they're work is crap. When you do, you're too close too it and your perspective is out of whack.ReplyDelete
You've got to have enough distance that you can appreciate what's right with it without being blind to the flaws. Sometimes that takes time. Sometimes that takes attitude. Chances are you can't do it effectively when you're flushed with success or feeling disheartened.
I think there's irony in that mood is more important for revising effectively than it is for writing.
By the way, I've fairly recently become involved in manga. Have you read Dengeki Daisy? I'm thoroughly enamored.
All we have to do is look back at the Ruben's nudes (and those plump women) to see how the view of what is beautiful changes over time--or go the opposite direction and look at Twiggy from the 1960s (so thin she looked like a boy). Your comparison to writing is very appropriate.
I really like the comparison. When I first wrote, editing was more like triage. Now I'm more in the polish mode!ReplyDelete
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I think your analogy is perfect because it all comes down to the intent. Fixing because you don't believe you're good enough or in order to look and be your best.ReplyDelete
Oh my gosh, this is EXACTLY what I needed to read this afternoon. I've been wrestling with my book (editing, writing the last chapter, not feeling like it's ever going to be good enough) the past couple of days. THANK YOU for this encouraging post. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go share it on my Twitter.ReplyDelete