It started as one of those weird, ritualistic things writers get caught up in: stroking the troll's belly for inspiration, only using blue pen to mark edits because red looks too much like a hemorrhage on the page, three licks-no more-on a query letter's envelope. And, no, I don't do any of the aforementioned, but I have been known to wear hemp-woven anklets for nine months on the promise of a wish granted when it finally funked out and broke off. Jamaican folklore is filled with mysterious possibilities for a writer's neurosis.
Life list #12 began as a way to exert control over my manuscript while time was passing me by: I wouldn't cut my hair until I'd finished. The end of my character's story would be the end of my locks, a liberation from the tedium of word counts and misplaced modifiers and the pinch of a wayward strand slammed in a car door. A new start. I never intended to get in touch with my inner Rapunzel.
Life happened, winter came. I finished the novel, but my reluctance to cut my hair became a symptom of my fear the novel was not truly finished. A twenty-two inch blanket to wrap myself in so the world would stay away from my pages just a little longer, just a few more weeks, to find that perfection that had eluded me.
In March, I found out I was a finalist for Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart award. The thought of two thousand people staring up at my freshly-shorn head and thinking, "Wow, she looks like a guy with that haircut," echoed in my mind as I was dress shopping. And, of course, the residual trauma from the Dorothy Hammil foisted upon me in fourth grade was ever-present. I had grand visions of an up-do worthy of the Princess of Monaco. I simply had to keep growing it, chasing an ever-warping superstition that my hair was somehow related to my writing.
Last week, I returned home. If the latest novel were any more finished, it would be book two. No impending public display loomed. No princess of anything more than superstition here. And as I was digging through my desk drawer, filing away newly-scored industry business cards, I found my life list. Crafted almost ten years ago on torn 5x7 spiral paper, green ink, I found it:
Life list #12: Donate hair
Had I remembered it was there? Yes and no. Had I remembered it once was important enough to place alongside #1? No. Could I have imagined that #1 would not be an end-something to cross off when dreams met reality-but a means to usher in all the other things I once committed to the list? Not in a million years. A catalyst to so much but still elusive.
My writing journey has been directly responsible for #7 and #11. Quite possibly #3. And now, #12. Number one is no longer a destination, a quantified and fanciful pinnacle found in some inner fairy tale. It is the path that liberates all the others.
Even Jamaican folklore can't touch that.
For more information on donating hair, visit Locks of Love or Beautiful Lengths.