Evan Johnston’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.
James Joyce wore a milkman’s uniform. Georges Simenon had his lumberjack shirt. Emily Dickinson had her Patriots jersey. Dante had his lucky crocs.
Every writer has a uniform, even if it is just a uniform of the mind. But this is my writing regalia, and I am compelled to tell you of its many inspiring qualities, as I have had many coffees and many more donuts. Come closer, for the sugar, she makes my eyes weak.
Oh, this cloak isn’t part of the uniform, I just put it on so that I could have a big reveal. Could you help me with the clasp? Thank you. Wait, no, wait, I have it. Ow. OW.
Now then. This jacket is festooned with medals of literary merit, which have somehow not yet been awarded to me. Until I receive them, I’m using these bottle caps and wacky pins as placeholders. Who farted? asks this one. Answer: Someone in the presence of a literary genius.
These epaulets signify that I am the Major General of Narrative. Armies and forces of nature move at my command! Tides crash, civilizations fall, chapters get started, sometimes with a really big first letter of the paragraph. Moving a narrative forward requires leadership, bravery, and a desire to eventually meet deadlines.
My shirt, once white, is now red from the blood of my edits. I am not using a metaphor. Have you ever edited in broad daylight? The noise just haunts you. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
No, that’s not the noise. I was trying to get the attention of my sugar glider. Her name is “EEEEEEEEEEE!” (I like vowel-based names.)
My hat has a long brim, so that you can’t see my face. Suspenseful, isn’t it? That is the very same suspense you will find in my prose—OR WILL YOU? This big suspense hat also has a long and magnificent plume—a quill!— in case my laptop runs out of juice. Strapped to my leg is a bottle of juice, and, dear friend, you will find that it is a grape juice, which like a story, is squeezed from the fruit of experience. Let me just write that down.
Do you have a pen? This quill is too fluffy.
This belt has “TO BE CONTINUED?” stamped upon it, because those words are the belt that holds at least two novels together.
These gloves are so that I do not leave fingerprints upon my work. I want you to be able to read my prose without thinking about all of the lush and intriguing details of my life. That’s what autobiographies are for, hint hint to my prospective literary agent.
This sword was issued at the annual Summer Writing & Swordfighting workshop, which was awesome, although I don’t remember much after the first few sangrias. But I use the sword every day. I use it to fend off the demons of Doubt and Despair, and also my creditors—for they are one and the same!
This tutu is a reminder that prose should be graceful and balletic.
These suspenders have Post-its stuck to them that remind me to fix various plot issues, because the sooner I do that, the sooner I can take off these suspenders.
These pants are made of papyrus. Papyrus pants! I cannot walk fast or far without becoming indecent, which I like to think of as metaphor for writing. But on the less metaphoric side, I can always write down a story idea on my pants. I have a few notes here, over on the thigh. This one says, “Have lead character wear real pants, you can’t really do anything in these.” Noted!
These rain boots are so that I may wade into the deepest plots of novels and stories, and still keep my toesies dry. There’s just something about a boot that really finishes an outfit and ties it all together.
Over on that chair are my boxers and my t-shirt, which is what I really wear when I do most of my writing.
And somewhere, inside these pages, is a book.