Growing up I would sit on my family’s doorstep in the summer, cradling my knees, and watching my mother comb bleach into my granny’s hair as the heat of the sun finally abated and I fiddled with my dress (this kind of hideous red and white checked pattern I had to wear for school; I’ve never liked wearing red that much but even I have admit it kept me cool🙄).
It never occurred to me that other families might be different. That some people don’t put this acidic smelling creme in their hair every month, chatting about life and all manner of things as their children and grandchildren ran around the garden barefoot and the birds began their nightly mumurations.
It never occurs to you, does it? Until it’s too late and the moments are gone.
Windchimes and the rustling of leaves are sounds that remind me of home, just like the smell of ammonia faintly drifting across a room.
I was sixteen before my mother finally, finally, let me dye my hair.
At first I went purple. A deep shade like concentrated grape juice or velvet curtains. It was barely noticeable because a) it was a temporary dye and those are always pretty weak on dark hair and b) it really only ever showed up in the sun (of which there is little in Scotland in the winter tbh #justsayin 🌨)
Quickly, I progressed to a slightly lighter auburn. It shone gloriously in the summer sun. I stayed like that for a while before I decided to go back to black. Three years later I was a bright red. Think Charles Xavier’s associated Jean Grey. That red. To be honest with you, I spent about five years flip flopping from red to brown hair after this. If I stretch my memory like an elastic hair tie I can almost remember which came when, but the memory is so blurred it’s like we’re looking at it through a fish bowl.
The thing to understand is I am almost 27 years old and for the last eleven years of my life I’ve been playing with hair dye fearlessly.
This week I’ve been toning my hair after a particularly (some might say ‘too’ ) strong bleach session a few days ago. It’s the healthiest it’s ever been because a few months ago I discovered a miracle product and combined with coconut oil (which is the world’s miracle product for everything) this has made my hair silky smooth! 😍😍 but this isn’t an infomercial so back to my point.
This is not my hair….
Maybe it’s the eleven years of hair dye (I happen to think it’s my upbringing) but dying my hair has never scared me 🚫. I’ve never had a nervous reveal like other people. Never held my breath as I pulled a towel from my head and thought this is make or break. That this is the moment I’m going to let define me. It’s gone green more times than I can recall (I actually like it when it’s green! 🍏🍏🍏🍏) and I’ve had every mishap a person can have with dye from leopard spot patchy hair to damaged ends.
I believe a certain kind of philosophy has given me courage. And it’s a courage I think can be applied to writing.
That courage is just this, this isn’t the final form.
My hair, just like my writing, isn’t finished yet.
I wouldn’t march into an art studio and tell people their work is poop 💩 before they’d finished so why should I worry about my stuff? My words? My hair?
There’s a kind of liberation that comes from realising you don’t have to care, or worry, about results right now. It makes you bold. It opens your horizons. You’re soaring.
More and more I’m trying to adopt this approach to my novel writing. It’s not that I’m letting standards slip, just that I’m shushing the perfectionist in me and telling her to think of it like dying my hair. Writing a first draft is temporary. Of course it needs work just like hair sometimes (often) needs toning.
How to do approach a first draft?