When i was in high school, I wrote a short story about a girl racing from her death down Interstate 45. In the story I used the phrase "her hair was styled for church."
I remember when I wrote that. I struggled for a day or two to come up with just the right phrase. It was a pivotal part of the story and it needed to be just right. Oddly, I scribbled "styled for church" down in the first draft and never found anything to replace it with that I liked better.
In the years since high school, and there have been a few, I occasionally think of writing that story and the process I went through.
In the movie L.A. Story (brilliant movie, by the way), Steve Martin's snooty L.A. girlfriend tells everyone how to know when to stop working on their appearance, even to the point of undoing what's already been done. She says that you should spin around in front of a mirror, and the first thing that catches your eye is the thing you should remove. (I'll have a twist of lemon…)
I often feel like something I'm up to, or something I'm writing, is that one last thing in the mirror, Like the phrase "styled for church" that has always bugged me about my short story. I try to find something that doesn't feel cliché, like it's not something that's detracts from the story by standing out but instead will meld with whatever else is going on. Teamwork, and all that.
The irony of that short story is that when the teacher read it and graded it, she red inked the phrase "styled for church". Not because it was unwieldy or clunky, as I believed, but because it was a phrase that said exactly what it needed to say.
When I flash back to this story, I always find myself in this frame of mind. What am I doing today that is exactly what I need to be doing? Am I saying things that I shouldn't say or are they exactly the right thing? Am I over analyzing everything or am I paying exactly the right attenton?
Who knows? I guess we all will, eventually, once the teacher has graded the paper.