Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's a Writer to Wear, Ms. Smartytights?

GITP also recommends hair accessorizing

GITP recently received this impassioned call for help from a mother/writer.  Both G's ITP's have been in this writer's exact position on more than one occasion, and we really wanted to help her.  We could think of no better place to turn than to Ms. Smartytights.

Be-monocled polymath, loving hard-ass aunty, curmudgeonly elderwoman, Ms. Smartytights ALWAYS has the right answer to EVERYTHING.


There's nothing this woman doesn't know.

So we threw the question out to her and got this very helpful reply to a struggling writer's question:

Dear GITP,


I'm so frustrated.

I love my adorable (and crazy) 18 month old baby Ollie, but I also love writing.  Ever since she was born I just haven't been able to get back into a groove.  Ollie now goes to pre-school every morning for three hours, supposedly to give me time to write, but lots of times, after my partner drops her off at daycare, i just sit around in my (now baggy from wearing throughout my pregnancy) yoga pants drinking tea and checking facebook.  I just can't get motivated.

I have a very limited budget (and it's all being spent on pre-school now), none of my pre-baby clothes are cute any more, and I live in a tiny apartment.  All of these things combine to make me NOT feel like a writer, or an artist of any kind.  I just feel caught, depressed and frustrated.  Do you think wearing a cute outfit to "work" every day would help?  (Not that I'm going anywhere or being seen by anyone. . .)

Help me get my groove back!


STILL Post-Partum

Dear SIPP,

First of all Ms. Smartytights must warn you.  She is of the opinion that there is a correct and an incorrect way to do things.

She vehemently despises the attitude that many of today's youth have adopted, captured in the nauseatingly inane phrase one might occasionally overhear:  it's all good.  Only Ms. Smartytights' conviction that unsolicited correctives are less than useful prevents her from taking a switch to the bottoms of these. . . these. . . namby-pambies on whose shoulders responsibility for the continuation of the human race resides.

Ms. Smartytights must register her protest.  It is most certainly not all good.  There is good, and there is bad, and she feels a call to announce to the world what is good and what is bad, and she gets so very much pleasure from these pronouncements, and thanks you for your kind indulgence in entertaining her opinion.

Secondly, Ms. Smartytights is quite strict, and so her advice can be interpreted as harsh and unfeeling by the more sensitive poet-types who frequent the Girls' blog.  Ms. Smartytights is happy that the Girls have asked for her opinion, because she believes that poets sometimes need a dose of the more bracing medicines she has to offer (as poets are wont to, how shall we say this kindly?  not always see things. . . as they are.)

So,  there is a right and and a wrong way to approach everything.  Don't believe otherwise, lest you fall prey to moral turpitude.  Ms. Smartytights must inform you, SIPP, that you are clearly approaching this in the wrong way.  But, do not fear.  The fact that you asked for help, and publicly no less, gives Ms. Smartytights a rosy view of your future:  you are prone to make changes when they are called for, and you are not afraid to take a switch to your own bottom when necessary.  These are all hopeful signs to Ms. Smartytights.

Your first question:  does Ms. Smartytights think that wearing a cute outfit to work would help with your motivation?

Yes.  Ms. Smartytights believes that clothing is important to a working person, and particularly clothing that is slightly stiff and restrictive, garments that remind you that you are not lounging, you are working.  She encourages full outfits, in fact, ensembles with some depth and complexity, outfits that betray a fair amount of thought and effort in their assemblage,  that send a message to the world about who you are and what you hope to accomplish.  She believes that the world will then telegraph you back, and that this reciprocity is one kind of motivation for someone, like a writer, who is often doing unpaid, unnoticed, and unrewarded work for long periods of time.  Motivation is of particular import for poet-types, as they are particularly prone to, shall we say, needing much approbation from an inordinately large number people.  Ms. Smartytights approves of one of the Girls' techniques of applying lipstick, donning an outfit with coordinating earrings, and, of course, taking the proper daily steps in personal hygeine each day (though, truth be told, Ms. Smartytights is appalled by the state of affairs in the world today making it necessary that such a thing must be said out loud, and in public!)

Now, about your small (and Ms. Smartytights inferred from your tone of discouragement, squalid) apartment, Ms. Smartytights also approves of another of the Girls' techniques of writing in a cafe.  Get out of that space that makes you feel trapped for a while.  Although Ms. Smartypants believes in Hard Looks at Oneself and Looking Onself Square in the Face, she also knows that there is a time  and a place to pretend that one is not trapped, and she does believe in "acting as if" you are already who you want to be.  There is, after all, a vast difference between fooling oneself and putting on airs.  (Ms. Smartytights disapproves of fooling oneself, but is quite in favor of putting on airs.)

Ms. Smartytights has very little personal  knowledge of what do do with a tight budget, so she consulted a young friend (currently under her tutelege) who is thrifty (and German) and also quite stylish and able to put on airs.  Here's what Fraulein Strumpfhose thought you should do about your wardrobe challenges, outlined in a darling numbered Germanic style:

Step 1: Look at your closet with new augen-- try to make combinations with your kleidung that you've never done before. Pledge to do this once a week. It can be hilfreich to have a friend/familie member/your toddler look in your closet for you and put together outfits with what you already own, as it is neu to them. 
Step 2: Host a kleidung swap with deine friends, especially ones who are auch impoverished and funky. Try bringing one article of clothing to jemand and asking if they'd like to trade it for something they are tired of. 
Step 3: Bring a certain amount of geld, but no idea what you would like to purchase, to your nearest thrift store. Be patient, thorough, and open-minded. Viel spass!

Finally, Ms. Smartytights would like to say that your problem, dear SIPP, is not your clothing, not your small apartment, not your toddler, not your awful yoga pants, but your attitude.  Ms. Smartytights means this with the kindest of intentions, but you must doff your worn yoga pants and don articles of clothing that make you feel you have the support of a whalebone corset beneath your heart.  What you are suffering currently is a loss of heart, dear SIPP, and Ms. Smartytights believes that changing your outer environs and appearance can do absolute miracles with your heart.  As such, Ms. Smartytights has been accused of existentialist leanings, and she will not deny this.

It's a crude turn of phrase with the ring of truth:  Ms. Smartytights absolutely believes you can fake it 'til you make it.

(Did she say that looking like a writer and acting like a writer will make you a writer?  Yes.  She did.  If looking like a writer makes you want to put more words on a page, then your endeavor to find the right outfit for your profession has been a success.  If you write, you are a writer.  Don't complicate things, dearies.

But did Ms. Smartytights say that wearing the correct outfit or toiling away in a fashionable cafe will make you a good writer?  A writer who gets geld and adoration for her words on pages?  No.  She did not say this.  These outcomes are not subject to Ms. Smartytights' control, sadly.  But Ms. Smartytights believes in worrying only about the things you can control, like which lipstick shade you choose, or how many words a day you write, and cheerfully forgetting about all the rest of it.)

If you do what Ms. Smartytights says, you will be a reasonably, if not a deliriously, happy person, and your small Ollie will follow suit.

p.s. Ms. Smartytights believes that holey tights are highly indecorous.  But, she has only a small objection to bright blue tights, and thinks that a shot of color might perk up what sounds to her like a rather drab moment in your life, and that entering a contest is one of those little things you can do to get out of a bad rut.  So, though she normally thinks that contests are silly and holey tights unseemly, she will permit you to enter this particular tights giveaway sponsored by the Girls' in this partcular instance.


  1. Love Ms. Smarty Pants' vibe! xoxoxoxo

    And I'm totally working on my clever comment.

    1. ms. smartytights told me she loves your vibe, too.

  2. Inspired by Ms. Smartytights, my mama, and my wife/room mate Anna (who dresses fabulously even when we wake up in the afternoon and wander out for a dining hall omelette. even when we don't make it out of the apartment at all.), and by the 30 pages that need me to write them in the next 2.5 days, I donned the fabulous, black, high-waisted menswear slacks I'm always too shy to actually wear, along with a pink lingerie-y tank top and a sweater. Full disclosure: I did not shower. Showers are the sites of my very worst obsessive thoughts and existential crises, so I avoid them whenever possible. I did, however, put on lipstick, buy flowers for my desk, and arrange my pretty silver every-day rings in a new formation (one turquoise from a different fabulously-dressed roommate, one with skulls from my old babysitting ward/3-year-old boyfriend, and one with pretty daffodils from my (ALSO fabulous) great grandma Beth.) I also poured my diet coke lime into a glass with ice cubes instead of drinking it from the bottle, which is my usual practice. So far so good--I've been feeling very inspired and productive, and have written SEVERAL pages (given the amount of reading/outlining that needed to be done first, I think you should be proud of me.)
    Just thought I'd share a testimonial!

    1. ms. smartytights highly approves of menswear trousers, but never lingerie in public. never.

  3. I admire ms. smartytights' character. and I have thought of her many a moment since I read this post, when I was wearing loose and stretchy clothing whilst working at home. I hear her voice, telling me to pull it together and wear something a little more disciplined, and while I'm at it, to be a little more disciplined. Word to the wise.

    1. ms. smartytights appreciates you thinking of her, and would like you to report back re: the correlation between disciplined outerwear and discplined inner life.