Last night I dreamed I was on a generational star ship modeled after a Russian palace. It was in disrepair, abandoned, and it was snowing in parts of it.
I will never write this story.
Okay, part of that is that it’s just a setting, not a real story idea, but also I’d feel weird turning the setting into a story because someone would ask why it was snowing in the ship and my paragraph of explanation about condensation in the air recycling system would kill the romance.
.. I self-censor a lot. A lot a lot. It’s easier to stick with plots that have worked before and tropes that are accepted.
If you read any editor’s list of ‘what I want’ it will say they want something unique. “Off the beaten path”, “different”, “Not the same old, same old”, “Please do not do a revisited plot of a recent popular movie.” Go on, look at a few market guideline pages. I’ll wait.
See any that said “We want safe, boring stories with plots that have been done a million times before”? Didn’t think so.
“Chase your weird,” editors say. Writing teachers say it, too.
Well, GREAT. It’s easy advice to understand and get, but how do you BE WEIRD? No one ever told me.
Supposedly, everyone has quirks and oddness in them. They have a unique perspective they can turn into weirdness.
I can feel you thinking how uninteresting you are.
Yo, even I feel like I’m not interesting, and I’m a medieval squire who played women’s football. I have a weird. And medieval recreation and football aren’t even IT.
These basic babes who I drew just to be straw women of normalcy – THEY have a weird.
You don’t see your own weird. You’re swimming in it. To my husband, my white midwestern-ness is “Weird”. Seriously. He’s all “You didn’t have a rice cooker growing up? That’s so weird! Velveeta? You eat that? That’s so weird!”
So I don’t know if I’m following my weird or not. Your weirdness is like your momentum and writing is your position and the more you focus on one the less you can see the other.
What to do?
Be sloppy? What is self-censorship but trying to appear ‘normal’? Acceptable? It’s neatening things up. It’s tucking your tentacles into a girdle and covering that with a flower print dress and painting lips on your razor-teeth jaws.
Chasing your weird is showing up without the girdle, without the lipstick, with just the natural poisonous barbs of your smile and sagging cheek-pouches of venom.
(This is performance art. I’m trying to WEIRD in public. But don’t you, also, feel like a monster smashed into a human suit sometimes, trying to fit in?)
Be janky and gross and make mistakes and expose all the worst parts of yourself. That’s your weird.
Maybe my ‘weird’ is wanting to write about ruined castles in space.
Or my weird is that knee-jerk shame at not having the science all figured out.
Or it’s both.
I just hope that if it feels scary, I’m doing it right.by