"If you can't make it good, make it big. And if you can't make it big, make it red." -- Rob Roy Kelly, Graphic Designer, 1925-2004  

During most of my childhood, I was all about navy blue--from my bed linens to my school uniform (including the knee socks!). And most of my adult life, particularly living in NYC and working in a corporate environment, I have been all about black--from my power suits to my notebooks and electronics . No question, navy blue and black are great classic colors; they're strong, solid, and dependable. They're well-rooted colors. And me? I'm pretty much the same (or so I've been told)--strong, solid, dependable and rooted. So, sure, it makes sense that I would be all about navy blue and black. And, besides, these are very slimming colors as well.

There's definitely something comforting about being solid and rooted. Something familiar. And for me, that sense of rootedness has translated into my keen sense of order, routine, and organization. The kitchen cabinets and the linen closet are beautifully arranged (though NOT alphabetically!) by item; there's always a clear surface on my desk; I love my wonderful 1930s steel filing cabinet and can find anything I'm looking for at any time; I am an excellent editor, able to keep track of threads and themes and character development; I am an excellent publisher able to juggle people and books and budgets; I am a steady, loyal friend. All good. All fine.

Well...maybe not so fine anymore. Maybe even a little...boring? OK, so maybe not boring, but maybe just...not enough?

Life is constantly in progress and it makes sense for there to be change and mess and disorder every now and then. But if you're not paying attention to those messages of change, if you're not open to what's trying to come in, then you risk letting life pass you by for the sake of the familiar and the comfortable. I didn't realize this five or so years ago. But events over the past few years have conspired to pull me out of the earth of dependability, to leave my roots dangling, and to throw me up into the chaos. And for me, the chaos is red. And what a beautiful, daring, rich color red is.

In the dictionary, the first definitions of red (if there really can be a definition of a color) is "any of various colors resembling the color of blood; the primary color at one extreme end of the visible spectrum." (Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Edition, 1987) These definitions thrill me: what could be more representational of the life force than blood? And how excitingly daring is it for the ultra-dependable person to suddenly be in an extreme position? Yes, to match all that is going on in my life is right now, I am seeking--and finding--more red.

My redness is manifesting itself in many ways--I now have red sweaters and red scarves (which really do offset the navy blue and black very nicely); red file folders; red ski poles and ski goggles; red business cards; and, most importantly, a red laptop (with her red neoprene sleeve and red mouse) which I have dubbed Red Writer.

When I was all navy blue and black I was so good at convincing myself I didn't have the time nor the ability to try new things or meet new people--and why should I bother, since everything I was doing was reliable and organized, I was at the top of my game at work and in my relationships, and things were going along just fine? Navy blue and black are the 78-feet-below-the-water tower foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge. Navy blue and black are the age-old oaks in Central Park that withstand storms of nature and storms of people. Navy blue and black are my parents saying "Be careful. Don't do that or you'll hurt yourself. Be safe." Navy blue and black are working at the same company for nineteen years, managing expectations, and feeling secure about my job. Navy blue and black have made it natural for me to disappear into the shadows, the substructure, the earth, a sense of being the good girl, being the unseen editor, being the rock. But red? Red is loud. Red is noticed. Red is flirtation. Red is "I am here." Red is the wind that sways the tops of skyscrapers and expansion bridges. Red is the storm that tears down the trees to make way for new growth. Red is the skiing that put me in jeopardy and scared me to the point of panic, but that provided enough of a rush for me to want to do again and defy the voices crying "Careful!" Red is the anger and the determination and the tingling "what's next?" that results from being laid off. Red is messy. Red is disorganized. Red is writing poetry and blog posts in order to gain the confidence to write even bigger. Red is good. Red is fine. Make it red.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC


  1. Red Writer! Love that.

    Also, all this redness makes me think of The Primary Colors: Three Essays, by Alexander Theroux.

  2. Emma, since I've known you you've been more red than navy, more force than foundation, more daring than restrained. Now I know this is within that last five years, but I'm betting you are gaining a clearer vision of the person who's always been there. Red, or navy, or appletini green you are fabulous.

  3. Ruby,vermillion,scarlet,rouge,cardinal,garnet, rose...

    I can't wait to watch your writing career bloom...!!!

    xo k

  4. You are a fine writer. I'm dying (red) to see more!

  5. I have a three-inch stained glass red dress suctioned to the window next to my nightstand. Someone once told me I'd never wear a red dress, and he was right. Seeing that little reminder in my window when I wake up affirms that I am beautiful enough, good enough, strong enough...to wear red, to be red, to want red, to write red.

  6. When the train left the station
    It had two lights on behind
    Yeah, when the train left the station
    It had two lights on behind
    Whoa, the blue light was my baby
    And the RED light was my mind

    -Robert Johnson

  7. Red is the color of Scribblerati.com, the network for writers I recently founded. Ellen's a member - why don't you join us?

    And, just for fun, here's a red logo by a designer I want to use on the website when we can afford him. He's Brazilian. The Brazilians have never been afraid of color...


    I'm excited about your writing future, Emma!

  8. Linda Hayward12/22/2009

    Emma...Great post! Love the line "...And how excitingly daring is it for the ultra-dependable person to suddenly be in an extreme position?" I'm all fired up to be one of your readers.


  9. I see your red, my friend!

  10. Connie Rockman12/26/2009

    Absolutely inspiring, Emma, and so much fun to read. I was going to say this is "cool" but, of course, cool is not red. Red it HOT, and so are you!

  11. Some of us saw your red long before you did. We just had to wait until you were ready to see it. And are you sure about the "not alphabetically" thing???

  12. Emma:

    HOw good, encouraging and a challenge.
    I had open heart surgery on Nov. 25th, now I see
    hearts, not just for valentines...as a former Hallmarker, it might be a theme. Or something to watch for.

  13. I am a red gal myself - sweaters, boots, walls, pens, paintings, furniture, lipstick... I am bookmarking this post, as it gave me shivers. Welcome to your red! :-)