Twiggy

In the 1960s, a model from London named Lesley Lawson became a fashion icon. Oh, perhaps you don’t recognize the name. Maybe the name Twiggy will jar your memory. However, if the 1960s was a decade your parents or grandparents remember (rather than you), you probably still have no clue who this is. Back then Twiggy was known for her waiflike look. Even today, some vie for the Twiggy look.

Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images

During my Sunday drive, I couldn’t help thinking of Twiggy with every deciduous tree I passed. Bare, vulnerable branches reached toward the gray sky, which brightened to blue in the afternoon.

Winter strips all of the pomp out of a tree. The circumstance is survival as a tree sheds its leaves and tucks into itself to wait for spring. But in their winter starkness, you can readily see the lovely “bones” of a tree.

In grad school, I had an advisor who did to my sentences what winter does to a tree. I had a habit of trying to get all fancy with my writing, adding phrases I thought grand. My advisor would send me feedback like, “This is crap,” which stripped all of the pomp out of me. Lest you get indignant on my behalf (or you just feel like chortling at the baldness of that statement), she was right. (I almost typed write.) I wanted to sound good, to show the world, “Hey look at me. I can use figurative language to dress up my writing” (though it made no sense character-wise). There is nothing wrong with figurative language. But as my advisor pointed out, if I couldn’t write a basic sentence—one with good “bones” like a solid action verb and a clear subject; one that fits the narrative well, instead of drawing attention to itself simply because it exists to feed my ego—what’s the point? She wanted to feel something, but couldn’t, thanks to my pretentious language.

So that’s why the twiggy-ness of trees moves me. Trees are so well designed, so graceful in their form. Starkness becomes them—and good sentences.

  

Twiggy photo from thegloss.com. Tree photos by L. Marie.

42 thoughts on “Twiggy

  1. Reminds me of the summer I stopped writing as a teen. An adult who will remain unidentified, went through my first book and responded with an anatomy lesson. They had read a book on writing that was riddled with these analogies. I spent the summer trying to figure out what it meant because it wasn’t explained very well. Probably would have worked better if dome with tress than bones, lungs, heart, spleen, and liver.

    • First of all, what a horrible thing to do a teen. Being an adult in a graduate program that I was paying for, in the hopes of learning more about writing, is one thing. But a teen who is exploring the world of writing is another. Besides, who knows if that book that person read was really helpful or not? I’m glad you kept on writing despite that.

      • It really depends on the character and the setting. For some characters, some similes and metaphors just don’t sound right. That was what my advisor complained about. I had all of these similes that didn’t fit the characters at all.

  2. Receiving criticism on our writing is never easy, but I think your advisor gave you some great advice. Tight writing always keeps me turning the pages more so than the “fancy stuff.” I also love the “twiggy-ness” of tress, especially when they’re coated with ice. Great post!

    • Thank you, Jill. Yes, trees with snow and ice look so beautiful (though I grumble about the ice when I’m driving on it).

      I put down a book that had fancy language. Others raved about it, but I couldn’t get through it.

  3. Made me laugh with this one. Twiggy the model I remember and I like the writing advice. I prefer to be twiggy in my writing, having come from an academic world wherein one must endeavor to use as many words as possible to construct their paradigm so that one can insinuate that one has the brainpower and insights to say that which one is trying to say, wordily. Uh huh!

  4. I love when you go somewhere unexpected in your blog posts 🙂 I wouldn’t have guessed that Twiggy would lead back to VCFA. But I get it! And thanks for the reminder to pare down the sentences! I have a tendency to overwrite also.

    • I prayed and this is the post that was the result of prayer, Laura. God helps me think outside the box. 😀

      I still overwrite. But now I’m at least conscious about it.

  5. Your writing teacher must have believed that your writing showed promise; otherwise, she wouldn’t have bothered with “This is crap!”

    Yes, I remember Twiggy, who got a lot of mileage out of that name. 🙂

    • Twiggy sure did, Marian! I Googled to see if she was still around. Yep.

      My advisor is a firm believer in telling it like it is. Whenever I slip into pretentiousness, I think of what she told me.😀

  6. Oh, I adored Twiggy! It was her huge eyes that captured my heart 🙂 What a great analogy, writing and trees. Oh, I can’t bear how I wrote in my very early days. Definitely a lot of puffy words 😉 Your blog posts are great examples of your “lovely bones” writing!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Marie! I love your phrase “puffy words.” So true.

      Have you read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr? That book is a prime example of elegant writing. He has some beautiful sentences. But none of them stand out, because all of his sentences are so clean and elegant. That’s what my advisor was trying to get me to see!

  7. Ah, I wish your adviser had got hold of a lot of today’s authors! I’m all for lovely, poetic writing but there’s a time and a place for it – sometimes I just want the story to move on a bit instead. Twiggy still shows up on ads for one of our big stores modelling their clothing. And she’s still gorgeous…

    • Glad to see that Twiggy is still around, FF!

      I know what you mean. I read the first book of a series and thought the writing lovely. In the reviews, everyone commented on the author’s beautiful language. In subsequent books of the series, the language started to seem a bit forced, as if the author felt the need to live up to the praise. But the descriptions started to bog down the story.

  8. HA! Twiggy…what I remember most was that her endorsements of Yardley lip gloss (not lipstick) got me hounding my folks to let me use it since it wasn’t ***really*** makeup! I won that battle in 7th grade thanks to her HA!
    Your reference to twiggyness in writing is an image that makes sense to me and I’ll hold it close whenever I am tempted to run off at the mouth via my pen no matter how flowery the words.

    • Ah, Yardley lip gloss. Do you remember Bonne Bell Lip Smackers? Everyone wanted those back in seventh grade.

      I try to rein myself in on the flowery words, unless they are appropriate. 😀

  9. I was excited to see your post on Twiggy! My current WIP, a historical novel in verse set in 1967, features a love interest who’s obsessed with Twiggy, drawing Twiggy, leaving his home country of Portugal to study art in America. And when he shows interest in my protagonist, her co-worker warns her: “He has a thing for the skinny blonde ones.” She doesn’t listen to the warning.

    My mother was also obsessed with Twiggy and ended up with an eating disorder as a result.

  10. Yes, I remember Twiggy. Her look was controversial from the start. Before Twiggy the voluptuous look was in. And she was no Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren. (My husband was a big fan of Sophia Loren.) Maybe it’s good that we can recognize more than one type of beauty. It’s the same with writing. Some people like it stripped down with the bones showing; others prefer more flesh on the bones. Either way, the bones need to be there, sturdy and well structured. Like the lovely trees in your photos.

    • Well said, Nicki! I can’t help thinking of Dickens and other classic writers whose writing definitely had more flesh than, say, Hemingway’s.

      Awhile back I saw a video on movie stars and super models and how the trends shifted over the decades. Quite telling.

  11. What a wonderful post, L. Marie, and yes – I remember Twiggy. A chubby teenager with think hair and deep set eyes, Twiggy was something I would never attain. 🙂 Do you know that Twiggy is still around? She was interviewed a few weeks ago (something like CBS Sunday Morning).
    I work on parsing my sentence – and my speech. One of the most valuable exercises I ever had to do were writing three minute speeches telling audiences who I was and why they should vote for me. 🙂

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