Dress the Part

I’ve heard that if you want to be successful in business, it is important to “dress the part” – you know, kind of visualize yourself in the role already, play the part, do a little self-actualization.

Do you want to be a fit and trim athlete, but you are nowhere near fit and trim? Don’t head to the gym in the saggy sweatpants with holes in the knees and the stained t-shirt you wear to mow the yard. Get yourself some good shoes, a sports bra, and a pair of stretchy pants. It’ll do wonders for your motivation.

You want to get into the local gossip loop with the old men at the coffee shop? Do not show up tomorrow morning wearing skinny jeans, a tight tank top, and spiked hair. I guarantee the old timers will not open up to you about town secrets – they may not even let you pull up a chair at their table.

I would really like to be a successful writer. Successful as in have an agent, and a publisher, and a national marketing campaign, and substantial sales. So, I’ve given a little bit of thought to “dressing the part.” But I have a question: what does a successful writer look like when she goes out in public? Honestly, I have no idea.

Baby steps. Several months ago, I decided that, as often as possible, I would take the time to actually put on make-up before heading in to town. I don’t have a fun, funky, writerly wardrobe, so I made small commitments in the clothing department: no more running to Troy in the shorts I wear to work in the garden, and if I wear flip-flops, my toenails will be painted. No shirts that are too snug around the middle (why do all my shirts keep shrinking?), and I’ll shave my legs at least once a week.

I can’t tell if the whole “dress the part” exercise is helping or not, and sometimes, it’s a frustrating challenge. Pretending to be – and to look like – a successful writer doesn’t really mesh with my other jobs and activities. Like today…

Exercise class first thing this morning at the fitness studio in Troy – I want to get fit and healthy, so I show up at Caroline’s at 7:30 every weekday morning. I dress the part:  athletic shoes, stretchy pants, support under garments, water bottle.

Back home after exercise class, I have just enough time to plant the cantaloupe in the garden and finish mulching around the young melons before heading out to Martin. Gardener. Dress the part:  gardening shorts, the shoes I wear for yard work, a tank top that I wouldn’t be caught dead in out in public.

After an hour of sweating profusely in the garden, it’s time to run inside, shower, and change clothes so I can drive Helen to a piano audition. As the mother of an incredibly talented pianist, I suppose I should pull on nice slacks or a skirt. However, on the way home from the piano audition, I also have to run by the library, pick up more mulch at the garden center, stop by Wal-Mart for groceries, get gas for the van, and make a quick stop at the feed supply store for a couple more t-posts.

Forget the skirt. I chose a clean pair of jeans and a not-too-snug shirt, and my fancy red flip-flops. Thankfully, my toenails were already painted.

Anyway, all of this to say:  as a mom (aka, fitness queen, cook, gardener, music supporter, library patron, gas station attendant, farm girl, professional shopper, writer, blah, blah, blah), I can’t figure out how on earth to “dress the part” without having to go through half a dozen changes of clothes in a day.

This would-be writer wears jeans and t-shirts. Why? Because on my way out the door to meet the public, I very well may have to take a detour to chase my ridiculous chickens out of the garden. Or I may have to stop and load bags of mulch into the van or get gas for the lawn mower or drop a greasy car part off to be tested at the auto parts store.

I really do want to “dress the part,” but I just can’t figure out which “part” to “dress.” This is trickier than juggling cats. I need help.


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