Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Writer, grow a beard

Every writer should grow a beard (females excluded, I suppose). That is what I conclude from a seven-month journey into the world of facial hair.

I stopped shaving at a music festival last August. My Dad grew a beard when he was my age, as did my father-in-law. I'd always felt I'd try it one day – a field of dancing campers seemed the ideal place to begin.

Yesterday, I decided to bring the experiment to a close. I fished out my razor this morning, lathered up, and off went the stubble.

Writers are always told to "make the strange familiar and the familiar strange". A beard does the job remarkably well. Your most distinctive feature – your face – becomes unrecognisable.

The process occurs over a few weeks when growing the beard. But when you shave it off the change takes place in seconds. It's quite a shock. I feel pink and fleshy. My chin looks enormous. I don't recognise myself.

I messaged a photo to my wife. "You look very strange!" she replied.

I feel very strange.

Imagine being able to achieve that with words.

2 comments:

dan powell said...

A post that deals with two things close to my heart, writing and beards - hurrah!

But Neil, a writer's beard is for life not just for seven months. Just ask Tolstoy. As a writer with a beard I cannot being without one to stroke as I ponder where to take me characters next. It's like having a low maintenance pet.

Neil said...

Ah Dan, you are right. I do miss the beard. And shaving – which was once a normal, everyday chore – now seems like a primitive ritual. Just the sound of razor on stubble is revolting.

But I look younger, and at my age that is a great consolation.

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