I was 21, about to graduate from college and set up my own household, you know, with a sofa that didn’t come from the curb, ceramic plates instead of paper plates, and real cups instead of the plastic freebies with the school mascot on the side. Bring this cup back for a free fountain drink with purchase of any large pizza.
I wandered into a high-end home goods store. There was no Walmart in town at the time, or me and my mostly empty wallet would have gone there. I chose a black cup from a back corner display. Black dinnerware was not cool at a time when happy graduates picked happy colors or at least safe, porcelain florals. The sales woman (tailored slacks, hair pinned up, an older woman with an air about her as if she was the owner) waved off the black with a flick of her hand. She ushered me to the popular picks.
“I still like the black cup,” I said.
She gave me the look. I know you know the look. It comes with a quiver of the lips, a pursing of the lips, but ever so briefly. For a moment I wondered if I had imagined her facial expression.
Then she said, “Are you sure?” with a smile that didn’t crinkle the eyes.
Clearly, I was doing something wrong, choosing something weird. “Yes,” I said, hating the quiver in my voice.
Where am I going with this? I just want to say, go ahead, be the weird person. Embracing your quirks may help you be a better writer.
Iconic horror author Shirley Jackson said this about drawing upon your oddness when creating stories: “The very nicest thing about being a writer is that you can afford to indulge yourself endlessly with oddness, and nobody can really do anything about it so long as you keep writing and kind of using it up, as it were.”
Erotica author K. M. Strange says she was a “weirdo kid.” She has this to say about intelligence, creativity, and humor being disguised as weirdness: “If you, like me, ever feel or felt like you’re not normal—it’s because you’re not, and that’s a really, really good thing. The world might not get you yet, but they will. And when that day comes, make sure you’re ready to show exactly what you’re made of!” It’s no wonder that she chose the penname “Strange.”
Here’s a tidbit from the late science fiction author Ian Wallace: “Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Author and writing teacher Rebecca McClanahan says that being an outsider is a feeling “that comes naturally to most writers. Many of my students tell me that they often feel they are standing outside their own lives, looking in. ‘That’s the way most writers are,’ I tell them. ‘That’s how we make stories out of our lives.’”
It’s years later. I still have the black cup I chose that day. It’s my fave. Just for kicks, I looked it up on Ebay to see if anyone else had these old cups lying around. I found one listed for eighty-five dollars! For ONE cup! Seems like other people have come to recognize the beauty of my long ago, weird choice.
What I’m reading now:
It’s the 2 year bookiversary of my friend Jonathan Pongratz’s debut novella, Reaper. Reaper is a fun YA horror story with a creepy-as-heck monster. It’s a re-read for me, and it’s just as fun the second time around!
I’m also reading Journey 4 from the talented Teagan Geneviene’s serial novel Dead of Winter, a cool fantasy with depth of characters and wonderfully drawn settings.
Jackson quote from Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin
Strange’s quote from her post, The Thing About Weirdos.
Mynhardt’s quote from Horror 101: The Way Forward, ed by Joe Mynhardt
McClanahan’s quote from Word Painting, by Rebecca McClanahan