Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Don't judge me, please

If you follow me on Twitter you might have caught the unusual tactic I applied to keep myself focused during the final days of NaNoWriMo: I applied tattoos. I started with the NaNoWriMo shield on my left forearm. This proved to be both fun and effective. I applied the first one on November 23rd. Then on November 28th I applied "1,667" to my right bicep: my incentive to get my daily word count average above 1,667 per day (the minimum needed to reach the 50k word requirement to qualify as a winner). On November 29th I was staring down the final words to reach my goal, so I applied a third tattoo: "My Novel, by Me."
If you read my post on the subject you know I'm not taking credit for writing this novel (to God goes the glory!) so I hid this tattoo someplace relatively discreet, over my heart. November 29th also marked my return to the office, ending my week-long holiday.

Then began my adventure as a woman of body-art, tats, suburban ink, stain, mystery and intrigue. I was asked more than once about what kind of wild antics I'd been up to over Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the reminders: I am a novelist. I wrote a novel. I've had many opportunities to tell people about it, because the bolder of my co-workers ask.

But there are others who do not ask; whose eyes dart to the tattoos and then back to my mundane visage. They try to make sense of what they're seeing. Did this business woman, an engineer no less, did she really get a tattoo? And what does it mean?

Last week, I went to a meeting with a bunch of stuffed shirts. The attendees were marketing, but also the CEO, CTO, COO and CFO of a small Austin firm. I was privileged to sit in on a deal as it was brokered (the outcome is still pending). And there I sat with my tattooed forearms. And they, of the darting eyes, trying to reconcile the body art with the rest of the package.

The next day I deleted Tattoo #1. It was looking very weathered and starting to erode. Two tattoos remained.
On Sunday I wore a top that didn't quite cover the "My Novel" tattoo; there I was at church, with a bit of green ribbon peeking out from under the neckline of my shirt. Awkward! Again, darting eyes gave away the natural interest. Who wouldn't be curious? I'll give credit to the wonderful people I worship with - my necklace received many compliments.

This week brought a cold snap and a visit from my boss (in from Taiwan). I decided it would be best to hide the body art, but discovered my long sleeve shirts all have low necklines. I decided to rid myself of the tattoo over my heart. My boss left this morning, non-the-wiser.

Today, I boldly bared my "1,667" tattoo and again received multiple comments and questions about its origin. I'm impressed with how well these temporary tattoos are holding up, and how authentic this one continues to appear.
I've kept this tattoo around for a couple of reasons: 1) I enjoy telling others (and reminding myself) that I'm a novelist and 2) I don't want to let myself off the hook. I'm supposed to actually read, edit, re-read, etc. this novel. I have another tattoo left to apply, which is my final reminder to get cracking on the post-writing part of this journey. If I don't get busy soon I may well apply the last tattoo to the side of my throat.

I've learned a few things from this whole experience:
  • There aren't too many people in my work environment with tattoos, despite the fact that Austin, Tx (in general) is a very liberal, live-music-capital-of-the-world tattooed/pierced kind of place.
  • Tattoos are fun and a little distracting.
  • I have enjoyed the outward/visible sign that I'm different, but I'm glad it's not permanent.
  • It can be awkward to have people stare at my body art (or even just try to catch a peek).
  • I've enjoyed telling people about my novel.
  • There's just as much risk that I'll come under judgment as a Christian fiction author as I will for having tattoos.
  • I've always said I have no interest in getting a tattoo, but that is no longer a true statement.
  • I suspect I'll miss having tattoos.

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