Writing in red lipstick

When I’m up against it, I go full glam 

There’s nothing like the urgency of a major deadline to learn something weird about yourself. 

I decided that one of the busiest – and most significant – work weeks of my year was the ideal time to perfect the art of applying red lipstick. I dug out my fieriest postbox red and studied YouTube videos until I nailed a sharp edge and seamless finish. And so it was, that I spent the final week of my book deadline, writing in red lipstick. 

Now, don’t be fooled by a glamourous facade. My life is far from under control right now. I left a trail of red kisses on the rims of dozens of discarded tea mugs in my wake. If you follow them, you’ll see the haphazard path I took, past piles of laundry and the detritus of life, as I carted my laptop from room to room, trying to find the ideal writing spot. 

Going full glam this week was mainly elaborate procrastination. I find the more that’s riding on a task, the more involved my avoidance tactics become. This makes sense considering that procrastination is a way for us to cope with the anxiety, frustration and self-doubt a task brings up for us.

Simply put, scrolling Twitter doesn’t give me the relief I need when I’m trying to drown out the screaming self-doubt that handing in my first manuscript represents. And so, I apply a red lip. 

Since learning that we procrastinate not because we’re lazy but because we’re channelling uncomfortable and difficult emotions, I’ve given myself more of a break about it. I can’t say I’ve kicked the habit (clearly), but at least I’ve cultivated a greater sense of understanding about why I’m doing it. 

But there was also something else driving me to experiment with intricate maquillage. It was a tiny portal into another world. See, I rarely wear red lipstick. This wasn’t about dressing up to feel good, it was about playing make-believe for a moment.

In Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, the author Natalie Goldberg writes about feeling sick of ourselves and the usual material we write about. “Put on a beret or house shoes and a nightgown, wear work boots, farmer’s overalls, a three-piece suit, wrap yourself in an American flag or wear curlers in your hair. Just sit down and write in a state you don’t ordinarily sit down to write in,” she writes. “Wear all white and a stethoscope around your neck – whatever it takes to simply see the world from another angle."  

The red lipstick I’ve been wearing this week was a gift from an old friend with whom I’ve since lost touch. She gave it to me when we knew each well enough for her to select my perfect shade of red. It has enough of a blue undertone to bring out my eyes and compliment my cool complexion, without making me look sullen. I looked at the bottom; it’s called Portofino Red. (In another life, I’d like the job of coming up with lipstick names). 

When I wear that Portofino red, I imagine myself strolling along the Italian Riveria. Maybe I’m there to celebrate something. I’m enveloped by the heat of the summer and the gratitude of my good fortune. Turns out, that glimmer of possibility is the new angle I needed.