“[Writing] is the place where the things that make you weird, the things about yourself that you know are different and even difficult, count the most.” ~ Linda LaPlante, The Making of a Story
Before we dive into weirdness, I must say how blown away I am by the response to yesterday’s post after it was featured on Freshly Pressed. This morning was a true test of my resolve to do morning pages before going online (I passed!), and when I saw that “Writer, Interrupted” has over 100 comments, my first thought was something like “yeeha!”, and my second was a more sober “how will I ever respond to them all before I leave for Texas tomorrow? ah, the guilt, the guilt…” Please forgive me if I don’t reply individually. The thoughts and ideas and generous wishes you have shared are a treasure, and I plan to collect the suggestions and BTDTs in a feature post so that we all can benefit from them as we create writing lives for ourselves in this crazy, wonderful, connected world. Thank you.
The quotation above comes from a book I have written about here before (The Making of a Story, by Linda LaPlante), and the words remind me of a blog post I found last summer, It’s July: Let Your Freak Flag Fly, by Cyndi Briggs (worth a read for anyone feeling that their own “weirdness” is a problem rather than a strength).
So, what does being weird have to do with writing? I once taught a grade school literature unit that used autobiographies and memoirs of children’s book authors as a way not only to give students a glimpse into the childhoods of their favorite writers, but, more important, to show them that being or feeling different, weird, out of place, the proverbial stranger in a strange land just might be what sparked those writers to write in the first place.
Jane Piirto, creativity expert and author of, among other books, Understanding Creativity, tells us that the call to create is more like a thorn than a gentle push. It sustains, yes, but it is also, at times, painful. It pierces and drives us forward, into new space. The feeling of being out of step with the world is, I think, part of the creative thorn for many people. It doesn’t matter if our weirdness is visible (many of us have spent a lifetime learning to hide it, after all). What matters is that something is missing, especially in the realm of connection.
Writing is at its core a way to connect and to communicate—with ourselves, with others, with an amorphous readership we can’t even yet imagine, with the future. It is an act of generativity. If we felt a part of this world from the beginning, securely connected in every way, would we have the urge, the drive, the thorn to create?
Today, let’s spend some time being thankful for our weirdness in whatever form it takes, for the thorn that prods us on, and begin to make it a part of our writing. In this way, the act of writing becomes an act of self-discovery, of finding our voice on and off the page.
“The goal is to find your voice, the voice that isn’t like everyone else’s. And this is a very difficult thing to do, for the plain reason that we have mostly spent our lives trying to fit in.” ~ Linda LaPlante