Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cut and Paste.

The contract was clear: my first, rough draft of the book was due on March 1st. Actually, I believe the contract stated that the “Manuscript (Hereafter known as ‘Manuscript’) will be delivered, sent, shipped, mailed, passenger-pigeoned to arrive at the publisher’s office no later than March 1st, 2008, of the traditional European calendar, not the Muslim, Jewish, Chinese, Baha’i, Hindu or Zoroastrian calendars”. But that’s what happens when your legal department needs to justify their jobs. In any case, March 1st was looming. I wasn’t exactly afraid of this deadline, but I did note three things:

1) March 1st fell on a Saturday which, after a quick call to the editor, meant my book wasn’t due until Monday. I could email it on Monday and still be within my deadline. Whee!
2) 2008 is a leap year. One extra day to work, whee!
3) Any word with the word “DEAD” looming out at you has no interest in being your best friend. Deadlines are fine with no one wanting to sit with them at lunch.

The Monday before the due date I ceremoniously handed Daughter off to Consort, gave the dog a new squeak-toy and hinted to the cat that there was a whole new species of squirrel outside who doubted her killing ability. Everyone thus occupied, I set to work. Most of the pieces were as done as I could make them and longed for the cool editorial eye of someone who knows story-structure and grammar but a few were still in the larval state. I had started quite a few of them and had gotten to a stage where I thought in frustration, “Yes, but Quinn, what in the hell are you talking about?”. I then saved what I had written and gaily thought “Later! Later I will figure out what the hell I was talking about and write the other half, or two-thirds, or seven-eighths. How exhausting and frustrating that will be…later!” Being as I had many months, I would then start another one, and then another, and then another still; I had a basket of literary body-parts. Every once in a while, I would open one of those stories and think “Ew!” and then I would think “Later!”

Now, it seemed, it was later. These graceless lumps of word-clay had to be molded into something recognizable and possibly pleasing. I had to create written ashtrays. Mostly what I created were dead ends. Had you stopped by the home-office at any point during the week, there was a better than average chance you would have found me looking peevish and hitting the “Delete” button. I wasn’t quite certain what the stories were, but every hour I would learn some new version of what the stories were not. Motivational speakers might find great meaning in how my missteps were somehow leading me to my goal, but when Consort tried that line of reasoning, I rewarded him with a scowl, followed swiftly by a sigh and a martyred look. Daughter, having some extrasensory understanding, waved at me from across the house a couple of times a day. I would blow her a kiss, and then turn back to my ugly problem child, the book.

One by one, I finished the seemingly never-to-be-completed. Now, even among these half-finished half-thoughts, there were better and worse ones. By Saturday night, I was down to the last two, and I certainly hadn’t saved these because they were the easiest ideas to flesh out.

When Daughter was one, she had a game Consort and I called “Not That”, wherein she would point to a high bookshelf and say “Eh”. We’d bring her a book and she, in frustration, would shake her head and say “EH!”. She would then point again. Lather, rinse, repeat, until every single book was given to her and we finally figured out she wanted the spider web in the corner of the shelf. For these two essays, everything was “Not That”; each was a proudly ungainly half-page waiting for its prince/essay to come, and only one prince would do. I wrote doggedly, trying to create the rest of these stories, only to read what I wrote an hour later and delete the entire thing. I ate a great deal of toast with immoderate amounts of butter, hoping shiny hair and clogged arteries might distract me from the growing fear that I might be writing these two essays by hand into each printed copy of the book.

By late Sunday night, it was down to one essay, which lashed against its restraints like a wild horse. It would not go nicely into a larger story; it did not want to be a book with a shiny cover with the other stories; it would kick and bite me until I allowed it to roam free and unfinished in my computer forever. I had other ideas. The battle wasn’t for the faint-hearted. And it certainly wasn’t being helped by my doing this...

Type.

Type.

Flip hair.

Type.

Scowl.

Delete.

Flip hair.

Type.

Flip hair.

My bangs were two weeks’ past their “Sell-by” date and were punishing me for my lack of attention by trying to slither down my nose and up my nostril. Every third action was in some way related to being able to see, which I decided could not be helping the taming of Misty of Manuscript here. It was very dark and quiet in the house; the only thing I could hear was the cat snoring, my fingers typing, and the Jiffy-Pop sound of my old whiplash injuries every time I flipped my hair out of my eyes.

I was very tired.

I had hours left to go before the book was due.

I hadn’t had a non-toastcentric meal in three days.

One of these is the reason I decided it would help things if I cut my bangs.

I strode into the bathroom, found a pair of scissors which seemed sort of sharpish, separated out the bangs from the rest of the hair, measured them down to my eyebrows, and cut. Within seconds, I knew I had made a mistake, mostly because my bangs sprang back up and were now in the middle of my forehead. My eyes blinked out in confusion, unaccustomed to seeing light without the protective shield of hair. The good news was that I no longer resembled one of the Ramones, but I wasn’t sure it was an improvement to resemble Moe the Stooge. I moved the cut hank of hair back and forth, trying to decide whether straight down was worse or flipped horizontally was worse. Each version leapt around in its chair, arm raised, shouting “Pick me! I’m the one which makes you look like a mental patient! No, no, pick me! I’m the one which makes you look like you did your own trepanning!”

And the voice in my head said coolly “They’re fine. It will look like Audrey Hepburn if you just even them out.”

I ran from the bathroom, slamming the door. I may be dumb and consist mostly of toast, but no adult woman has ever had a haircut improve by listening to the voice which tells her just to even the bangs out.

The rest of the night should have been nothing but work, what with not having to remove my bangs from my eyelashes and nostril cilia, but what used to be spent trying to fight with my hair was now spent opening a compact and trying to decide how I would hide my shame from the world. I just had to do this on a Sunday, with all hair salons being closed on Monday. I’d have to spend twenty-four hours looking as if particularly aggressive scrub jays used me for nesting material. I gasped and covered my mouth with the hand which had been pulling at my hair, trying to get it to grow; Consort! He’d see me like this! I couldn’t decide if it was the ugly or the crazy which bothered me more, but he simply couldn’t see either. I slithered into our bedroom, past his blameless sleeping form, and attached a baseball cap to my head. Somewhere around the grey light of dawn, I slipped into bed. After some adjusting, I created a kind of head-scarf of sheets, duvet and pillow; the sensation of smothering was only slightly alarming. I slept uneasily.

The file which was my book shipped the next morning. Consort, having done all of the heavy lifting of pagination and structuring the actual pages, looked tired and proud. I looked enigmatic under my baseball cap. We hugged in relief.

My friend Veronica called; could she stop by and pick up some school supplies from me? I glanced in the mirror and hesitated.

Hearing my hesitation, she said “Just leave them outside, if you’re still working.”

“Thanks, but the book is done. It’s…”

“What?”

“You can’t see me.”

“Sure, okay.”

(Silence)

“Why can’t I see you?”

I moved away from the part of the house where living things were and whispered, “I got a little stressed last night and…I cut my bangs.”

Veronica hooted “What are you, twelve?”

“I know,” I sighed, tucking the phone into my shoulder so I could look in a mirror and pluck at my hair again.

"They have these new things. Their called barrettes."

"At three in the morning, cutting your hair sounds like less work than pinning it."

I blame the toast.

She came by. Of course, I had to show her. She moved them around a little bit.

“It’s not that bad,” she finally declared.

“Thanks.”

“Just don’t try to even them out. And congratulations on the book!”

I watched her drive away. Consort and Daughter walked up and hugged me. The voice inside my head said “You know, during rewrites, you and I can finally spend some quality time reshaping your eyebrows.”

25 Comments:

Blogger Menchuvian Candidate said...

Congratulations on having finished the book. Mazel tov for resisting the urge to tidy up your bangs any further. I'm impressed; once mine start to annoy me (and its always some sort of stealth attack wherein they go from fine to perfect to the bane of my very existence in a single day), anything is fair game- but, hey, you used scissors! I've been known to go after mine with nail clippers.

http://hismonthlyobligation.blogspot.com/2008/01/stop-me-before-i-cut-again.html

6:13 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

Oh that was just the funniest thing! I can remember cutting my bangs, too - with the same disastrous outcome.....thank you for the good laugh, and the memory - not to mention the "whew, better you than me" I got from it!

6:26 PM  
Blogger miss cavendish said...

Oh dear. I did this once, in Grade 7, the night before the Junior Prince and Princess competition (I'd been nominated in the female category), and I wanted to look just right. Of course you know how I looked.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

You know, this might make an excellent epilogue to said book...

6:45 PM  
Blogger His Singer said...

Oh Quinn, would that the desire faded over time! Alas, the need to be the master of one's own bangs lasts even into your fifties, as I can well attest.

http://hisunfinishedwork.blogspot.com/2007/10/really-it-would-be-pathetic-if-it-wasnt.html

It's a sad thing. A sad, sad thing.

6:54 PM  
Anonymous --Deb said...

Is it right that I'm chuckling wildly at this? And, really, now there are two blogs I'm reading this week with authors desperately trying to meet book deadlines. (The other, if you haven't heard of it is the Yarn Harlot, who is darn funny herself.)

Hope your bangs recover!

7:26 PM  
OpenID suzyandspice said...

wouldn't a barrette have been simpler (and faster)?

7:38 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Congratulations on completing your draft!! No small feat, that.

I have been breathlessly waiting for news about your progress, not wanting to annoy by asking. I was hoping you were having better success with meeting your deadline than I've been having wrestling with several of mine.

Job well done, and I so look forward to reading the final, published project! Maybe there will be a book signing up here in Seattle. I'm sure your bangs will have grown back out by then.

Good job on finishing your first book!! Huzzah!

8:57 PM  
Blogger EGE said...

Overwhelmed With Deadline Stress, Former Child Star Takes Scissors To Own Bangs

Somebody, quick, call TMZ!

(PS Congratulations!)

4:11 AM  
Blogger CDP said...

Congratulations. I've cut my own bangs, with dreadful results, and I've done it more than once. My husband never notices my beauty disasters, and I'm always torn between being charmed by this and being outraged...so he thinks I look this bad ALL the time?

9:24 AM  
Anonymous elizabeth said...

My sister did the exact same thing but...she *was* 12!

They will grow. Sun visors aren't such a bad look.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Stein said...

Seconding Sarah - this is an easy call. Clearly this should be your Epilogue (I bet it practically wrote itself !).

Yoohoo - Quinn's editor - (surely your editor reads your blog !) - howzabout we find a place in the book for this gem ? I mean the book is about Quinn's life - and this is about Quinn's life while writing the book - it's the rear view mirror in the dressing room of her life !

11:16 AM  
Blogger Amie said...

About a week before I got married, I decided to wax my eyebrows at home.

'nuff said?

3:41 PM  
Blogger Muffy St. Bernard said...

The perfect epilogue (or prologue, if you want to "start from the end"). Bag the hair clippings and sell them with a limited edition of the book as -- literally -- the sweat of your brow.

It seems that everybody does this sort of thing once...and only once. At least you have a good excuse for doing it!

Or rather...errr...I guess "temporary insanity" is good enough.

Congratulations on getting the book finished!

5:58 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Congrats on finishing the book!

I was an unstoppable bang trimmer as a kid. As soon as you described the annoyance with the bangs, I KNEW what was in store.

I grew my bangs out about 5 years ago, after realizing that I don't really have a fivehead (bigger than a four head). It was great, I could use headbands.

Six months ago, I decided short hair was the way to go. I love it-except for the stupid bangs!

6:23 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

Um...yes...well....

OH DEAR GOD THE NIGHTMARES ARE COMING BACK!!!

Why do any of us, EVER trick ourselves into thinking that cutting our bangs is a good idea???

Congrats on the book. And I know EXACTLY what you mean. I'm in the middle of a project called Project Kilo where I have to write a 1000 word peice every day, and I've had a lot of false starts that refused to flesh themselves out.

Writing is evil! Why don't we get out when we have the chance?!

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

Tears stream down my face as I laugh uncontrollably at your story. I'd read more... but I have a deadline.

[OK actually the deadline came and went on January 10th. I guess this comment is written by someone on the other side of a deadline... Grandma is that you? Should I walk into the light or keep typing? I'd cut my bangs but I don't have any... hmm... maybe I need some.]

7:27 PM  
Blogger SusannahS said...

Congrats on meeting the deadline! Hip hip hooray!

I let my bangs grow out when I was 13, after an unfortunate incident when my nana decided to trim them for me. On Christmas Eve. After having consumed quite a few cocktail. I had to wait a month for them to reach Audrey Hepburn length!

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a cutter...the drawer where I keep all of my hair accessories has always included a pair of scissors for those mornings when cutting is the only answer...

Congrats on finishing the book! Excited to read it!

Michaele thewritegirl

2:50 PM  
Blogger OHN said...

At age 7 I hated my bangs so I cut them. They were too short so I just cut them off. (Yeah, I never said I was a smart 7 year old-I think they grew back by the time I was 9).

Congrats on making the deadline, hopefully without raising your blood pressure.

6:12 PM  
Blogger K said...

Fabulous! I can't wait to read the book. I love your blog...oh, and toast...I love toast.

usxvgohb Does that seem a bit excessive for a word verification or is it just me?

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Chatty said...

I once pulled all my thin, stringy, lifeless but long hair up into a ponytail way on top of my head, and cut most of the resulting tail off. I had read somewhere that this would create a perfect shag. This despite the fact that I barely have enough hair to cover my scalp. I thought layering it might help. It didn't. It was, however, shaggy. Not in a good way. I think this fabulous idea (which took me almost a year to rectify, as in addition to everything else, my hair grows slowly) came to me at 3 o'clock in the morning, too.
So, sorry about the bangs. Glad to hear your friend says it doesn't look as bad as you think it does.
But MOST IMPORTANTLY - CONGRATULATIONS on finishing your draft - this is hugely exciting.
Maybe you can eat something besides toast and actually sit down with Consort and Daughter for a nice meal. And, whatever else you do, ignore the voice that suggests you reshape your eyebrows. It would end in tears. I speak from experience, Quinn...

12:15 AM  
Blogger Robin Raven said...

I tried to leave congrats before, but was having computer issues...

SO....

Congratulations! I'm so excited for you (and excited for me as I can't wait to read it)!

That's so wonderful. :-)

12:12 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

signed, sealed & delivered! congratulations!

4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a sorority sister who always looked fabulous (and I mean campus beauty queen fabulous). One day I discovered her secret. When she finished fixing her hair she would lop off whatever part didn't look right. You would think that kind of behavior would eventually catch up to her, but in the three years I knew her, it never did. I think about Laura whenever I drive through her home town and I always wonder how her hair looks.

1:51 PM  

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