Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Writing reminds me of razors.

Background: Like pretty much every guy, I started shaving when puberty grasped me in its hormoned grip, but I always used an electric razor. It was a gift from my parents and a natural choice for me. Coordination wasn't high on my list of virtues; convenience was. Over fifteen years passed with me lawnmowering my stubble. Then two things transpired a little over a year ago to change that.

The first was a Christmas gift from my sister in law--shaving cream. Not just any shaving cream, mind you. This was
C.O. Bigelow Premium Shave Cream with Eucalyptis Oil, the kind that comes in a tube and that you whip into a lather with a badger-hair brush. The cream had a pearlescent sheen and smelled of menthol and planted in my mind all sorts of romantic notions that can accompany a flawlessly depilated face. Yet even though my electric left a lot to be desired, coordination and convenience won out in the end. I stuck my tube of Bigelow in a drawer and continued lawnmowering.

The second came during a trip to visit my in-laws. I mentioned to my wife's father and her sister's fiancé, who was also visiting, my dissatisfaction with my trusty Norelco. In addition to being a tad uneven in the closeness department, it had begun spewing clippings about the bathroom. Both urged me to try wetshaving. The fiancé praised his beloved's Bigelow. I asked my father in law what he used. "Water," he intoned in a manner that would've
done Dirty Harry proud. "I've got an old can of cream and a Bic in the bathroom. Wanna give it a go?" My masculine pride pricked, I lathered up and dragged the razor across my cheeck.

It was--quite literally--a bloodsport. Crimson runnelled down my chin and throat. The washcloth looked as if someone had used it to clean up a crime scene. Yet the parts I'd managed to avoid slicing were smoother than ever before, and when I went into the kitchen I got a dutiful peck from my wife.

Today I've graduated to a single-blade razor (not to be confused with
a straight razor). It's challenging to use. Most days leave me with at least a few nicks, and sometimes I have to go back to the electric to give my skin a rest. There are times, though, when I make it through three passes cleanly, and my face feels like the proverbial baby's rump. Those are the times that keep me picking up the razor.

Writing's the same. Some days character and plot, metaphor and theme, imagery and setting spurt from me like a fire hydrant. Mostly they don't. Some days it feels more like opening a vein. But it's those times of almost effervescent insight that parks me at my pad and make me drag my pen across it.

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