This is my husband’s way of describing himself and it’s quite accurate…I love the expression. In case you’re not familiar with the term, ‘breaking starch’ refers to the act of putting on a fresh military uniform, pushing your arms and legs through the heavily starched shirt sleeves and pant legs with knife-sharp creases, literally breaking the starch. The military man is used to ‘spit and polish’ being the order of the day. The men learn to take care of the little things like how shiny their shoes are, how sharply creased their pants are, and how tautly their beds are made. Respect for themselves, their unit, their commanders shows in every perfect detail. This aspect of military life combines with learning that a platoon can work as a single entity, bouncing back up when they’ve fallen down, and learning from their mistakes.
My husband puts his military training into much of his daily life. Household chores are done with a thoroughness that exceeds all expectations. When he dresses for any event, his prowess in military-style ironing shows through. If he cooks dinner for me, my plate rivals, in its display, that of any executive chef. When he cleans the car, he doesn’t simply wash it, he professionally details it. Put simply, he enjoys doing everything well and with panache.
His expression, ‘a flip-flop world’, refers to his assessment that people have become casual, laid-back in their manner of dress, the way they perform their jobs and live their lives. Flip flops with formal wear is acceptable in some circles. Walk into the home of a 30-something and you may find it the norm to be stepping over and around toys, shoes and various other possessions that have found a home on the floor. Sweatpants are not reserved for going to the gym but, for many, are the standard garb for a date at a restaurant or another event at which they would have been unacceptable 20 years ago. Taking the casual, or easy route, has become the rule rather than the exception.
I agree with him and I prefer the manner in which he carries on over the alternative. You may not, but I intend to show how this relates to writing.
While writers are a creative lot, our work must ultimately be precise, near perfection, we must ‘break starch’ in this ‘flip-flop world’. If a writer intends to write for personal pleasure alone, crafting a memoir for the family or a cookbook to hand down through the generations or a blog to voice his views, then a casual approach is acceptable and probably preferred. When a writer intends to sell his work and put it out into the world of readers to inspire, instruct or entertain, then he must hold himself to a higher standard – writing, editing, polishing until it shines. He becomes an entrepeneur.
Maintaining your writing career as a profitable business, requires natural talent, learned skills, and a business plan for future product development, marketing, promotion, and consumer retention. A blase`attitude jeopardizes any prospects for success as a professional author, just as poor writing skills would.
There’s a time and place for flip-flops and sweatpants…a barbeque in the backyard or a lazy Saturday morning breakfast at the diner. Meeting your agent or signing books for your fans is the time to ‘break starch’. Writing a book of some weight demands ‘breaking starch’.
Are you a ‘Breaking Starch’ or ‘Flip-Flop’ kind of writer? What do you demand of yourself?
I look forward to hearing from you.