Guest Blogger Terri Giuliano Long: Pink Nails & Creativity

I’m so happy to have Terri Giuliano Long guest blogging here today! I was lucky enough to review her latest novel, In Leah’s Wake, earlier this week and I loved it! You can check it out here!

Make sure you check out the end of the post for a special commenting contest and giveaway!

The firestorm set off in April by the J Crew ad showing a mom painting her son’s toenails hot pink appalled me. Set aside the repulsive homophobia—Ms. Lyons is “exploiting [her son] Beckett behind the facade of liberal, transgendered identity politics”—really? Set aside feminist politics—would critics be equally appalled by a photo of a five-year-old girl collecting rocks or digging up worms? I doubt it. For artistic reasons, I am aghast.

Creativity demands that we stretch our boundaries, break rules. William James said, “genius . . . means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.”

We writers rack our brain trying to figure out how to break out of the mold, dodge our hang-ups, free our mind. We play tricks on ourselves—we read, we meditate, we listen to music. Some use alcohol or drugs. All these activities, healthy or not, are attempts to escape the inhibitions we developed – growing up, throughout our education – in a world that condemns rule-breakers, in essence disparaging creativity, discouraging creators.

Rules are necessary, of course. Communities need a means of controlling their citizens. Without laws forbidding theft, rape, murder, we’d live in mayhem, in fear of not only losing our possessions, but of losing our lives. Yet some of our most abiding rules are arbitrary, based on superstition, antiquated beliefs. For thousands of years, people associated left-handedness with the Devil. In my kindergarten class, you were to write, cut, and color with your right hand. My teacher transformed me, a leftie, into a right-hander—no big deal, except that it set me up for a lifetime of directional confusion.

Not all rules are righteous or good.

For writers, rules create structure. A conventional story begins in medias res, in the midst of a situation, flashes back to provide context, and moves forward, through a series of conflicts to resolution. The framework makes stories readable, eliminates confusion, ambiguity. For readers, rules act as a guide, offering a way in, providing accessibility, a means of understanding the work. While adhering to rules can feel restrictive, disciplined effort produces works of great beauty. Creativity, originality – this demands experimentation, a break from convention or rules.

Circumscribed gender roles, among the most arbitrary rules, put kids in a box. Why can’t an American boy paint his toenails? Egyptian men used henna as a cosmetic on their fingernails. For males in 19th century Afghanistan, hennaed fingernails were a sign of victory and prestige. Yet here, today, we censure a mom for painting her son’s toenails.

Reining kids in—forcing them to adhere to arbitrary roles—bridles their imagination, teaches them to conform. If we hope to foster creativity in our children, we need to give them room to breathe, space to imagine. We need let them dig up their worms. Allow little boys paint their nails pink.

Commenting Contest & Giveaway:

Terri Giuliano Long is giving away a $100 cash reward to the blog with the largest number of commenters. I will split that with one of the commenters, to be chosen via random.org.

There is also a contest for the most interesting answer to this question: Do you enjoy literary fiction? Why or why not? The winner, which will be chosen by a judge appointed by Terri Giuliano Long, will win $50.

I will also use random.org to choose a winner for an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. (Added 8/22/2011, the deadline for comments will be midnight, 8/23/11.)

Let’s show everyone that Motherhoot readers know how to comment!

Good luck!

4 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Terri Giuliano Long: Pink Nails & Creativity

  1. I loved this. The words, the sentiment, all of it. I think I definitely need to get my hands on her book. :) I have a daughter and she plays in the dirt. Frequently. And yet as I type this she JUST asked me to paint her nails. So why can’t kids do whatever it is they want? She’s only 4. She likes worms and toads and creepy crawly things that freak me out. ;)

    Hmmn, define literary fiction, please. I adore almost all fiction. I sometimes have a hard time with non-fiction if it’s historical or something that doesn’t pull me in, but I love the art of creating a story as much as I love and enjoy reading one. I don’t fancy myself a true blue writer, but I try to write when I can. And I try to relate to my own words as if I were someone else reading them. And at the same time I think the same of others. I imagine them sitting at the keys, or pen in hand and paper before them, and I watch and see how much they put into their words.There are certain fictional stories that are far-fetched, and I know they are enjoyable, but they might not work for me. But I think fiction reading is essential for everyone. To pick up a book and use it as an escape – to find a new and creative way to think of things – it’s important for all, from the really young to the middle aged to the elderly and beyond!

    btw. I’m trying to open another link to see what your review on this book says, and find out more, but your blog won’t allow me to do that so I can’t comment on the story just yet and how it might or might not draw me in. I can tell from the book cover shot that I would pick it up, though!

    And on that note, maybe my comment should stop here – as it’s pretty long already! ;)

  2. Literary fiction is a way to escape the ordinary. There is nothing better than taking words and transforming them to a motion picture in your brain. And your sentiments are well taken. As a little girl, I played in dirt and played baseball on the all boys team and nobody got upset over that.

    The book looks great! Thanks for sharing.

  3. @stef@hauteapplepie You’re the winner of the $50 Amazon gift card for commenting! Congratulations! You should have your gift card by now. If not, please let me know! What will you be using it for? I also won one and will probably be buying more books, of course!

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