Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Kat Meads
Granted, on a few special occasions, (some) writers will do their duty and glam up: suits, ties, matching socks; lipstick, earrings, hair that's actually been styled. They put in an appearance; they eat, they drink, they mingle. On site and on view, they smile, they respond, they make small talk or pontificate as the occasion demands, valiantly attempting to forget that unfinished sentence, that character lacking stolid proportion, that fifth egregious title seized upon but not quite discarded in the last frantic work hour before primping began. They do their best (and repeatedly fail) to disguise an intense longing to be back at their desk and in the duds they favor over all others because in those duds they fulfill their fondest desire: they write.
Make no mistake: your typical writer-wear is not what anyone, owner included, would classify as the chic and the fancy. Into this category fall the flannel shirts, ripped and tatty Ts, inexorably stained sweat pants, baggy-seated khakis, flip flops and fraying tennis shoes trash-targeted by well-meaning family and friends. These are the worn thin, familiarly scented, cozy-feeling rags that have by design or coincidence insinuated themselves into the writing ritual, the clothes we associate with productivity and bliss. (That we wear the same outfits trashing plots and villanelles and bemoaning our linguistic limitations is beside the point. The glory moments prevail. Besides which: can one really blame apparel for sub-par writing?)
One of my fellow scribes is bonded to a denim work shirt, circa 1968. Another swears his father's fedora helps set the mood. At least three others compose and revise in bulky bathrobes. Not to forget the poetess who, one particularly brutal Massachusetts winter, began to associate inspired progress with the open-finger gloves she wore while typing. When summer arrived as summers will, even to northern Massachusetts, those gloves turned itchy. No matter. Be-gloved she wrote on, June, July and August.
Years ago I fixated on the top half of a pair of insulated underwear scrounged from my parents' attic. Since then, the escalating fierceness of my attachment and dependency has prompted me—a klutz with a needle, a person with zero sewing skills—to take up darning. Sleeve, shoulder and elbow holes I've stitched into lumpy ridges. I even hand wash the thing to keep it intact.
Superstitious, fetishistic behavior, but where's the news there? Writers are a fetishistic, superstitious bunch. They cleave to their writing routines, desk arrangements, bulletin board artifacts. They have their writing chairs, their writing implements. So why not their writing garb? It's a wild freefall, writing. So why not dress for comfort?
Kat Meads's most recent book is the novel Sleep. She lives and works in California.
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