Thursday, October 1, 2009

Step Into My Laboratory: Experimenting Is Good!

These past two weeks I've embarked on a terrifying experiment. No, I haven't been inventing anything or reanimating corpses.

I gave up shampoo!

You heard right, guys. I haven't shampooed or conditioned my hair in two weeks. To the left is what my hair looks like as of this evening.

Turns out the hippies were right! My husband did a sniff check, and my hair not only looks nice, but smells like shiny clean hair goodness.

This bizarre and unexpected success got me thinking. It's easy for me to experiment with real life things like new foods (I'll try anything once) or my hair, but I have a hard time experimenting with my writing.

Why is that? And am I alone?

For instance, I recently rewrote some scenes in my WIP, LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS, and it was some of the most difficult writing I've done. My husband kept telling me to just "let loose and see what happens," but a I found myself hesitating. I didn't want to let go of the words I'd written, my previous ideas, or even my inner editor, shouting "don't screw this up!"

Eventually, I cringed and just did it. These new scenes are now some of the coolest moments in my book. The experiment paid off!

Are there times when you struggle to let go when you're writing? What do you do to give yourself permission to experiment?

Do you find the results equal success? Are you too afraid of failure to even start?

On the hair front, it was a complete disaster the first week before it balanced itself out. Somehow it was both frizzy and oily at the same time. Not pretty, my friends! But, I stuck it out. Fear didn't stop me from seeing it through, and now I'm glad I did.

What about you?


Jaime Theler said...

I am mucho impressed with the hair experiment. I'm not sure I have the guts to try that, which probably reflects in my writing, too. You've inspired me to let loose. At least sometimes. Thanks!

Rebecca Knight said...

Awesome, Jaime! Glad I could help :D!

To tell you the truth, the hair experiment was horrifying the first week, and made me realize I'm much more vain than I thought. I'm still glad I did it, though :P!

Iapetus999 said...


I guess while we're on the subject, I did once grow my hair out almost as long as yours. I don't think I ever not washed it. I run a lot so I think having long hair now and not washing it would be problematic.
My wife was recently laid up in bed with a broken leg and didn't wash her hair for too long and it was a disaster.

I don't think there's ever been a scene written that couldn't be improved with a complete rewrite. It's just the cost/benefit issue.

BTW are you near Seattle? You should come to some of the meetup groups out here.

Abby said...

You are brave! I'd never make it past the first three days. I think that's the longest I've gone, and it was GROSS!!

I always hate banishing my words to the darkest corners of my hard drive (I save everything I write. Even the crap.) but I'm always happier with the new scenes. And like you, those are often my favorite scenes. Great post!

And great hair. Looks so soft!

Amanda Acton said...

Oh noes! I have very curly hair, and am on strict instructions from my hairdresser not to brush it. The only time it gets a comb through is after I've washed it. Works wonders, the curls stay tightly together, but if I leave it too long it gets a bit knotty when I do get to combing it out. So I'll skip on the hair exp. :P

As for the writing, when its a short story etc. It's much easier for me to experiment. With a big giant WIP... I cringe! Eventually I get round to doing it though, but it takes a good few internal pep talks to let go of what I've done already and rewrite.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I don't have trouble re-writing. Sometimes, though, I will have "favorite" sections or phraseology. Ultimately, ironically, these are the ones that have to go.

Scott said...

Eeeeew on the hair. Oh, and your husband must really love you to perform the 'honey, can you see if my hair smells bad? test!

I think, as writers, we get comfortable with one type of writing format . . . and heaven help us if we dare something different.

I've learned to try something different, and mix things up a bit with my writing. On one project, I couldn't decide who Character A was going to end up with by the end of the book. So, I wrote three separate endings. Let me restate that: I wrote three separate second halves to the book, becuase the choice of Character A in Option 2 & 3, made some of the interactions in the book totally different once the choice was made, which was at the midpoint of the book. Whoa!! : )

The format of one book was that each chapter was a month - 24 chapters = 2 years! At the end of each chapter was a one paragraph section that always, always took place at the very end of the day, the character lying in bed, trying to sleep, and all the jumbled thoughts keeping him awake. Hey, that's kinda like my life . . . which is why I put it in. This concept didn't work with another manuscript.

Still, experimenting is good!


Annie Louden said...

Wow. Did you not go out in public that first week? That would be my main concern. What would my coworkers think?

Yes, I have a hard time letting loose in my writing. Or, if I do (like during NaNo), I'm afraid it's too silly and I edit it out later.

Badass Geek said...

I don't often experiment with much, as I'm not really a risk-taker, but I've been wanting to branch out with my writing.

This may be the push I've been needing.

Tere Kirkland said...

I do this all the time if my hair doesn't get dirty, i.e., I don't spill food in it or go somewhere smoky. My hair looks better the longer I go without washing it, but it is a similar texture to yours, and a bit longer.

I need to shake things up a bit with my WiP, too. I'll have to do something mean to my heroine. Hey, better than making her do something stupid. ;)

Rebecca Knight said...

Lapetus: I'm much closer to Portland, OR, but I will check that out! :) If I'm making a trip, I could totally plan it around a meet up.

Abby: That's awesome that you save everything. I should do that!

Amanda: If I didn't brush my hair, I think it would attack me in my sleep! Very interesting that it works for the super-curls :).

Elizabeth: Me, too! We love them so much, we often keep them even when we shouldn't. Sigh!

Scott: That is amazing! When you're famous, maybe you can release a box set with all three different versions ;).

Annie: I feel you on the loosening up. Also, I went to work the first week with a lot of scary ponytails. So... wrong...

Badass Geek: GO FOR IT! :) You can always delete it later. Good luck!

Tere: Good luck with the meanness! Torturing protagonists is always fun ;).

Kat Harris said...

The hardest thing for me is when I get an idea in my head that says, "This is how the story goes. Don't stray from this," and then a crit partner says, "Why don't you try something like this?"

The mother hen in me says, "No, don't change my baby." But yeah, it ends up being better when you let go and start experimenting.

Lisa and Laura said...

I'm intrigued by this no shampoo business. Do you still get your hair wet? Do you use conditioner?

Tell me more! Your hair does look very shiny....