3 Things the Prom Taught Me About Writing

On the left: me 20 years ago with my prom date, Mike. On the right: Me last weekend with my son.

On the left: me in 1993 with my prom date, Mike. On the right: Me last weekend with my son.

Twenty years ago this month, I attended my first prom. Last weekend, I got to experience a parenting milestone as my eldest son attended his. (I won’t go into how old I now feel…)

I had no idea how to approach it from the “mom” angle and even less of an idea how to help my son prepare for it. Needless to say, we both did what we do best – flew by the seat of our pants.

And while we were neck deep in Prom Prep 2013, I discovered a few tips that I can add to my ever-evolving writing arsenal and share with you.

Lesson One: It’s all in the details

Ordering the tux went (almost) without a hitch, but the corsage was nearly a disaster.

Our original corsage order turned out to be for a shoulder corsage, not the wrist corsage we’d intended to order.

If we’d just taken the time to double-check the description we’d have known that. Thankfully, an eagle-eyed designer at the florist called to confirm that’s what I’d actually wanted.

Writing Lesson One

In writing, make sure to always check your work. Missing even the smallest detail can lead to unintended (and potentially painful) consequences.

Your readers (or clients or editors) are placing their trust in you and if you fudge on the details or get lazy, you break that trust. If your readers lose trust in you, you lose your readers.

So take a moment to double-check that fact, or check your setting notes, or whatever applies to the writing you’re working on. Your readers are counting on you.

Lesson Two: Things can (and will) change at the last minute

Since my son waited until three weeks before prom to ask his date if she’d go with him, we went into the tux accessory selection colorblind. We decided to try a neutral-ish color of Navy, but three days before pickup, he told me that his date found the perfect dress — in red. (And it was the perfect dress; she looked stunning.)

We crossed our fingers and called the tux place. Can we change the colors on such short notice? Thankfully, for a modest fee, yes. (And well worth the result – he looked stunning too, if I may say so.)

Writing Lesson Two

You’re going get last minute changes either from your client, editor, or even your muse and you have two choices in how to deal with it:

  1. Whine and waste time fighting about it.
  2. Be professional and take it in stride.

I’m not saying be a doormat when you get an unexpected or last minute change. But take the time to examine it.

  • Is it legitimate?
  • Will it add something to the piece you’re working on?
  • Will it detract or make the piece worse?

Bring up legitimate concerns with your editor or client but otherwise, go with it! This last minute change may cost you something in sleep, missed meals, or a couple of Pepcids, but the results could very well be something beyond what you hoped for.

Lesson Three: Even flying blind, things work out beautifully

My son and his date color-coordinated their attire via verbal description only. Since she found her dress only a few days before prom, we didn’t know whether “Red” meant more toward the yellow or blue side of red. And asking my son if he knew if her dress had “Yellow or Blue undertones” was met with a blank stare and the sound of crickets chirping.

It turns out that they did a great job communicating, because her dress and his accessories matched perfectly.

Writing Lesson Three

You’ve gotten yourself saddled with a writing project that has little to no direction or requirements, or your novel has meandered off like a kitten chasing a butterfly. You’re now in what you consider “desperate times!”

But, you’ve heard the saying “desperation is the mother of invention,” right?

So close your eyes, jump off the ledge of faith, and dive in anyway. This could be your best work yet!

On the Prom Front, everything did work out in the end. While I counted the grey hairs I’ve gotten in the 20 years since my own prom (and writing so I wouldn’t cry), my son was having the time of his life.

What parenting situations in your own life have taught you about your business (whether it be writing, finance, technology, etc.) And do you have any tips on stopping the spread of grey hair?

Photo Credit: Gloria Masse and Jon Bristow

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