Friday, June 13, 2014

Misfitting In


I’m a misfit. Even in the world of misfits that are my writer friends, I’m the odd duck, the third wheel, the square peg, the weird red-headed kid with the freckles who goes to the prom by herself and is okay with it.

When other authors and I go out to lunch, they talk about the research they’re doing on the history of filbert farming for their latest nonfiction book or how they’re going to kill off someone in their crime novel. I talk about ideas I have for a new bumper sticker or the song I’m working on for a musical about a group therapy session comprised of fairy tale characters.


And when we set out our books out at writers’ fairs, theirs typically all fall into the same genre: mystery, romance, historical sci fi graphic novel set in Greenland in the 10th century… I have to separate my dog books from my menopause books from my stress management books from my game books. And over to the side, I put whatever short form writing I’ve recently produced, from bookmarks to wacky t-shirts with sayings such as “Wear your glasses. It’s hard to follow your bliss if you can’t see it!” I clearly have GDD (genre deficit disorder.) The only thing consistent in my writing is my pathological need to make people giggle and to do it in under 150 pages, or better yet, a pamphlet! I’m not good at long-term commitment. Instead of dating, I go to the airport once a week to get patted down. My writing reflects that. 

I confess all this not to make you feel sorry for me (although if you do and want to buy one of my books or join me in my weekly pat-down, I will not stop you). No, I tell you this because I think most of us these days are fragmented and unfocused. And all of us feel like misfits at least some of the time. The good news is that just like a hummingbird who can’t choose between pink or orange flowers, not fitting into any pigeonhole can be a good thing. After all, where do you find a pigeonhole these days and wouldn’t it be a tight squeeze in there?

           
A lot of new writers try to become “professionals” by reading books about the “writing process.” In fact, as a writer, one of the first questions I usually get asked in interviews (at least those that don’t happen completely in my head) is, “Do you have a process?” I know what people want to hear: Do I write in the morning, do I set a timer, belong to a writing group, write naked on Wednesdays, etc.

The truth is that my process is as odd as my writing. I have no rules or superstitions about when or where to write. I do have one rule about when not to write, however – never  when I’m cranky (unless you count posting on FB as writing). Fortunately, I’m not cranky often because I always keep a copious supply of dark chocolate in my pantry. 

 

Whether you see yourself as a writer or not (and who isn’t these days, what with memes and taglines on Instagram?), I say forget about fitting in to anybody’s preconceived notion of what a writer is. If you want to write book-length poetry using organic, free-range, GMO-free lipstick on the walls of your apartment, why not? You think Twitter provides too many characters and are more of a 6-word memoirist? Great! You’re stitching up a haiku quilt? Hey, I’ll be first in line for the quilt-signing! 

While you write you can sit, stand, squat like a Sumo Wrestler, run, canoe, skydive, or float in an anti-gravity chamber. You can write with a partner, a group of writers, your banker, two horses and a rabbit, a random number of chimpanzees on typewriters. Do it when the sun is up or down, the kids are home or away, Mercury is in retrograde or renegade… Just do it. You don’t even have to wear Nikes in the process. 

If you have something inside you that needs to be expressed for posterity, the only rules you have to follow are your own. And you don’t even have to follow those! 

One caveat: You will probably not get rich writing this way. You will also drive agents and editors batty with your insistence on not only coloring outside the lines but writing outside the lines too. But if you’re anything like me (and I doubt it and know it’s true at the same time), you’ll enjoy the “process.” You’ll even be a successful writer; of course, you’ll learn to define success as “I enjoy writing and want to continue to do it.” 

Embrace your inner misfit! Now I must go. I have this idea for turning recipes into knock-knock jokes!


Leigh Anne Jasheway is the author of books aimed to make you laugh so hard that tears run down your legs. Her latest are Date Me, Date My Dog and 101 Comedy Games for Children and Grown-Ups. You can also read her article Improv/e Your Writing in Writer's Digest Writing Basics, available now at http://www.writersdigest.com/

5 comments :

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Leigh Anne, I bet you are fun at parties! Great post! peter

Dr. Suzana E. Flores said...

Love it! From now on, I'm writing naked on Wednesdays.

Susan Clayton-Goldner said...

I am laughing and promising myself to embrace my inner misfit. She is most certainly there.

Sue Coletta said...

I'm with Suzana-- Writing naked on Wednesdays!

Leigh Anne Jasheway said...

What? You don't already? :)