Hair today: N M Browne


I have a confession. Sometimes I change my mind. Not about big things: I still think Brexit a terrible idea, I still think marrying my husband was a great one, but on smaller issues I like to try things out. I like to try a new idea for fit, challenge it then move on. 

My hair is a case in point. I have a lot of ideas about it - most of them terrible. At one time or another I have tried out most cuts, hairstyles and colours: waist length to super short crop, curly perms, root perms and ringlets, bobs, shags, page boys, the Purdy, the Farah Fawcett flick, the Jennifer Aniston layered thing, even (whisper it) a mullet. (Thankfully, most photographic evidence has been lost.) I've been several shades of  blonde, red, brown, grey and latterly lilac.  I've never been tempted by cosmetic surgery but hair grows back, most mistakes can be fixed. So, finally, I come to my point: my approach to hair is very much my approach to editing. You can mess up a lot in writing, but you can always restyle, rewrite and, if cropped sentences doesn't exactly grow back, there is alway the 'undo edit' button: hair as metaphor.

Don't worry, I am in absolutely no danger of saying something profound. This metaphor, like most others, doesn't survive serious scrutiny. There is, though, a kind of impatient creative restlessness that causes me to change my hair colour regularly. I don't necessarily think a change will be better but  why not try it out and find out. This is not wholly dissimilar to the necessary questioning of a manuscript. 

In writing and in life I am reluctant to change the bones of a piece, but when it comes to the styling then I do question everything. I encourage my students to experiment. I generally think it is great to throw everything up in the air. I think you should interrogate every sentence. Perhaps the long flowing one, reminiscent of the romantic poets, full of subclauses and exotic extended metaphors, could, when all is said and done, benefit from abbreviation. Crop them. Equally, some sentences are too blunt, lacking movement and grace. Some need a little more body a few high or low lights to create texture, a bit of judicious undercutting for drama. 

My own experience with both sentences and hair suggests that this effort is never wasted even if, in the end, I return to my go to style. The fun always lies in the journey.


Susan Price said…
I agree. I almost find that when if I have to look at some earlier work of mine, I start editing it again, sometimes decades after publication. Sometimes it would be nice to know how to stop editing.
Peter Leyland said…
Hi Nicky

You have sort of described my teaching style with your metaphor, Let's throw everything up in the air and see what happens, although I never tried it with the more disaffected of my charges.

That's a great fun read so thanks. I haven't much hair now and my adult students are much more able to cope with my stylistic experiments.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Nicky, love all the haircuts of your past and your current look is gorgeous! So nice and neat. :D

The comparison of hair styles to styling one's writing got me thinking about my own mess-o-mane. You've inspired me. I'm not cutting my hair right now as we're in lockdown, but I might run a brush through it today. ;)

Have a great Thursday,
Kirsten Bett said…
Love your hair styles Nicky, and your blog speaks to me! I am editing at the moment and it drives me insane, just like my hair can. But I do think in both cases you do know when enough is enough 😉

Cheers, Kirsten

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