Changing Hats


The image of the peddler with the stacks of hats in “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina seems to ring true for me these days. I’m not selling hats, but I am wearing a lot of them (figuratively speaking). They’re not colored, like the peddler’s checked, gray, brown, blue, and red. I guess they could be, but these hats represent the roles I fill at any given time as a writer.

The stack started with my writer’s hat. My naïve, early self thought it would be the only one I’d wear, proudly and successfully. Quickly on its heels came the proofreader and editor hats – logical and necessary additions. I could handle three hats comfortably because I didn’t have to wear them at the same time. Write, proofread, and edit. In that order. One at a time. Repeat as necessary. “I can do this,” I announced with pride and confidence.

Then the other hats arrived. “I didn’t order these!” I protested. Too bad – they were mine now. Returns not accepted. “But there are so many!” I moaned as I looked in the box – publicist, public relations director, advertiser, promoter, marketer, accountant, blogger, legal expert, full-time employee. The pile seemed endless. “Help! I can’t wear all of these! I’m just a writer!” I read the labels as I tried to add them to the three already on my head. “These hats are for left-brained heads – I’m right-brained!” I shouted as the pile toppled from my head. I stood alone in the middle of the room with the hats scattered at my feet with two choices: quit writing or figure it out.

With quitting not an option (my head would explode with the stories piling up inside), I constructed a virtual hat rack. I made it an attractive one while I was at it – beautiful, scrolled antique brass with enough sturdy arms to hold my hats. And it rotates. When the need arises, I can pluck the one(s) I need and leave the rest on the rack. That solves the problem of trying to wear too many at once.

The “right-brain,” “left-brain,” conflict is one that I will probably always struggle with. I am definitely “right-brained” and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. The “left-brain” world will always be unfamiliar, somewhat hostile territory for me, but I am learning to navigate as best I can when I pull that hat from the rack.


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