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Thursday, January 09, 2014

A Writer’s Coat Moment

These frigid temperatures made me think of the last coat I wanted to buy and a writing moment.

See, there was this coat. Not just any coat; it was the perfect coat. The right price, the right color, the right style. It was maybe a bit on the smallish side, but I wasn’t worried. I slid the coat over my shoulders…and felt a pull.

Uh-oh, I thought. That is not a good pull. It was a (very) tight pull, a pull that clearly said, “Stop now and the coat doesn’t get hurt.”

I shucked the coat, completely deflated. I was so sure that coat would fit. Probably because in my mind, that number on the tag is still my size. When I held that coat up in front of me, I saw my once-younger-and-svelte self, twirling about in folds of woolen fabric. But good, old reality reminded me that I’m no longer svelte and there would be no coat-swirling for me.

As the writing fates would have it, later that same day, I was tackling a manuscript revision, when I had a “coat moment.”

See, the writing on the page just didn’t fit the writing in my head. In my mind’s eye, the writing is perfect; words flow with unsurpassed literary quality, expressing so clearly the intricate themes and plots in my head. I’m Flannery O'Connor, J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman rolled into one. But when I read what I’ve written…well, it’s like that ill-fitting coat, and I’m completely deflated.

But you know what? I suspect that most writers have their coat moments. In fact, if you’re like me, you have your coat moments on a fairly regular basis.

And I think that’s probably a good thing. It’s the coat moments that push us to pick ourselves up, to work a little harder. I hunkered down and went back to work on that manuscript that day, and I’ll bet you do the same thing. Coat moments give us the incentive to keep striving, to up our game in this competitive business of writing.

The start of a new year gives us a push, too. It’s an opportunity to think about how we can improve our writing, and what we need to do to bridge that gap between what’s on the page and what’s in our heads. Specific goals will get us the fit we’re looking for.

As for that coat…I gave it to my much younger and still svelte daughter. There’s another perfect coat out there for me, and someday, I’ll find it.

~Cathy C. Hall


  1. And you can take a Sharpie marker and make that coat any size you want...

    Great post, Cathy, and great connection to writing...

  2. First a REAL coat moment--I have wanted a new winter coat for 2 years now. This year I actually tried some on. Good Lord--I need to lose weight--that's what those REAL coat moments told me--but I like your perspective better: There's the perfect coat out there for me somewhere. . .:) I plan to tackle the clearance racks in February after being back at Weight Watchers and I'll share my coat moment.

    As for manuscripts--this happens to me all the time. I'm going to start thinking COAT MOMENT. :)

  3. Anonymous8:34 AM

    Thanks, Sioux! And thanks for the Sharpie tip, too. :-)

    Margo, when I complained once about losing my figure and having to buy a bigger size, my mom said, "Well, you had kids. Would you have rather NOT had kids?"

    (I hate when my mom does that.) :-)

  4. Hmmm. I didn't have kids. I mean, I didn't bear kids.

    And you are so far from overweight, Cathy. Good gravy!

    Great post, though! My writing is ill fitting every day. I love polishing it up, though. Love the fine-tuning part of the process. So maybe I buy the coat and then let out the seams.

  5. Anonymous10:28 AM

    I'm expert at the art of disguise, Sally. :-)

    Well, maybe not as expert as you with polishing up and fine-tuning. But I feel a teensy bit better, knowing YOU have ill-fitting writing. Is that bad of me? :-)

  6. Oh this was comforting to read. I have so many "coat moments" with my writing, I sometimes wonder why they heck I pursue it at all. So glad to know I'm not alone.

  7. Cathy, if only it were the coat. My jeans are snug. I discovered the first chapter of an old manuscript that at the time didn't fit any genre I write. Now, I am going to try it back on and squeeze into something new, thanks to your encouragement.


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