Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Perhaps the fumes from the hairspray impaired my fashion judgment. That's the story I'm sticking with, anyway. If you got me too close to the campfire, I would have gone up like a Roman candle.

Up until a year ago, I was regularly accused of being too harsh when writing about animal rescue. The blood, the guts, the gore. I told it all. I even wrote a manuscript for a children’s book that drove my focus group to tears.

But I didn’t do it for the sake of gratuitously shocking people. I wrote it raw because I wanted readers to see what I saw, to feel what I felt. To understand the untold suffering. I thought that if they were right there with me, they would grow motivated to take action.

Little did I know that writing the whole truth would accomplish just the opposite—nothing. The effect was reversed. The converted were traumatized and didn’t want to read about the horror they were already living amidst much of the time. In their leisure moments, they wanted to escape. And the outsiders just got annoyed and defensive about having the ugliness shoved in their faces.

One by one, people whose creative minds I respected told me it was too much. That I needed to tone it down. Soften the story. Wrap my words in velvet, so to speak.

I heard them, but—to be honest—didn’t really listen.

It wasn’t until I started writing my own rescue blog that the tides of understanding finally turned for me. I realized people would stop reading if everything I wrote was sad. It would be a mental overload and a downer and they’d never return to read my stories again.

I began to think in terms of ratios. I would write eight happy stories for every two sad ones I posted. Or seven to three. Or nine to one.

And seeking out the items with happy endings gave me an unexpected bonus result: a better frame of mind. I read once that we feel what we think. Seeking out the joyous stories for readers, the ones that bring me to tears—of inspiration, not pain—propelled me to start living in that happier, more optimistic space. Hope was restored again.

So yesterday when I ran the story about my interview with sports star Troy Westwood on the horrors of dog fighting and Michael Vick, I thought I’d close with a shot of a happier time. Troy and I in our teenaged awkwardness, dressed up in full fancy ‘80s regalia, on our way out to a family wedding.

I almost didn’t post the shot because I didn’t want to frivolously detract from the serious nature of my story. But remembering the advice from my creative mentors, I reluctantly decided to give the piece an upbeat ending.

Little did I know my atrocious ‘80s hairdo would be what caught readers’ eyes, and give them something to laugh at. Every email I received mentioned the bird’s nest appropriate for a bald eagle.

So, in the spirit of good humor, I’ve dug up a few more for your viewing pleasure.

Let’s just say my hair is ending this story on a high note.

Notice the top of my hair didn't even fit into the photo. It wasn't the first time that happened in a picture.

Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press

Who could forget the crimping iron?

When I wrote for the Winnipeg Free Press in Manitoba, there would always be times when photographers needed a model at the last minute. Here I had been dragged in to get the shot for a story about the fur industry. I was already rescuing animals and clearly not impressed with modeling the coat. I remember feeling pretty disgusted about being wrapped up in dead animal fur.

1 comment:

allan eastman said...

Ha Ha - but yr beautiful...