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Be Your Writer Guy or Gal

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

How You Look and Act as a Writer is More Critical Than You May Think

By Michael Heath /

Be Your Writer Guy or Gal

In the 2004 movie Sideways, two middle-aged men take a week-long buddy trip to the wine country. Jack, an actor whose career is on the wane, has a mostly optimistic personality contrasting with the brooding Miles, a failed novelist. Before taking to dinner a pair of attractive women they met on the sojourn, the two have the following exchange:

Miles: “Hey, what should I wear?” Jack: “I don't know, something casual but nice. They think you're a writer.”

On the surface, the back and forth may appear a bit innocuous. However, Jack constantly encourages Miles to get his novel published even if it means starting over. Here, Jack implores his friend to raise his game by playing the part of a writer. It is not enough to write to find success as an author, but it’s important to think and look the part.

Discover Your Alter Ego

Todd Herman, who wrote The Alter Ego Effect, points out in his book that Martin Luther King, Jr. wore glasses before they were needed because he wanted to be more “confident, articulate and decisive.” Herman notes a famous NBA player who wore glasses off the court since he wanted to appear “mild-mannered.” I noticed that when Katie Couric became a CBS news anchor she started wearing eyeglasses. Was this her way to stand away from the perky Today show morning personality, to be taken more seriously by the evening audience? The answer is likely yes.

Uniforms can have a similar effect. Police uniforms give the feeling of authority while military dress provides a sense of duty. We have all heard the term dress for success. The premise is that a person who feels and looks good in what s/he wears will naturally perform better at his/her job. Years ago, I bought all my suits from a salesman named Steve who always dressed nattily in a suit and tie and drove a late model silver Saab. The store eventually closed and the next time I saw him he was working in a shop catering to the outdoors type. There, Steve wore jeans and a flannel shirt and parked his Jeep out front. In both instances, Steve played the part while holding the distinction of number one salesman.

Look the Writer Look

When you think of a novelist, what comes to mind? Someone a bit artsy or unconventional? Maybe a little off beat? A person who is personable but needs lots of solitude? People watcher? Book reader? Thinker? And what do those authors wear? Imagine the hip, timeless look. Blazers. Tweeds. Scarves. Corduroy. Denim. Thick-rimmed glasses. Turtlenecks. The look should be thrown together but flattering. You know, something casual but nice that lets them think you’re a writer.

For more advice about being a writer or getting published check out our self publishing services.

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