Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is Normal?

When I started seeing a therapist almost four years ago (best investment of time and money ever) I was obsessed with whether or not I was normal. After about the sixth time of asking “Is that normal?” I noticed that I was constantly asking that question. After thinking about it for several days, I realized what a ridiculous question it was and still is.

“Normal” changes all the time, depending on the times, country or culture in which we live. It’s also subject to family structures, personality traits; and physical, emotional or intellectual capacities.

Now, as a writer and blogger, I’m hearing the same question, worded differently. “How am I supposed to do that?” or “Do I have it right for my genre?”

If we accept that the word normal equates, in some degree, with average – then do we really want to be doing everything the “normal” or accepted way? Just as our quirks make us who we are as people, what we do outside the norm will be what helps us to stand out from amongst the rapidly multiplying crowd of authors. Let’s face it there are a ton of us.

However, I’m not advocating trying to be different. Unless you’re really good, it’s going to come off a little strained for most writers. Instead, what do you say we let our natural selves flow a little into what it is we create, without flinching when it feels a little too personal, hits a little too close to home. It is that fear that we may be discovered to be “not normal” or some dark side would be revealed that keeps us from relaxing and letting the truly sparkling stuff come forward sometimes.

I have an example for you. A good friend read my novel Red Mojo Mama and when I asked her what she thought she immediately launched into a diatribe about the sex in it. She mentioned that I was a mother with children who would read this stuff and sex in the shower was so extreme. Really? Let me just say that the sex scenes in this book are extremely mild in comparison to mainstream authors we’ve all read. I let this comment get to me for a while. Her words had made me feel abnormal – weird. Once I realized that she was the one with the problem, I relaxed again and as I’ve been writing my sequel I’ve been able to allow Red to be a sexual woman.

This is a very small example. There are larger things at risk. Will you step out of the box created by friends and family to fully form a character without fearing it will reflect on you? When you find that you have broken a “rule” of the publishing world, but it completely works in your project, will you find the strength to go on with it?

It is still a struggle for me, sometimes, to go forward with something that feels a little different. I hope that will continue to be a smaller and smaller consideration over time.


  1. I find that I've never had much desire to be normal, and agree with many points in your article. Especially breaking rules of the publishing world. With the onset of Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords, etc... authors now have the option of writing the story that needs to be told, rather than writing it to conform to cookie cutter guidelines. :)

  2. I agree with everything you've said, Kathy. A writers voice is their own and what they write about are things that touch them. There is no need to follow the big 6 guidelines in todays world.

    That's good and bad. Now readers will look at most anything and most are now wanting things to happen quick to get them interested. Real life isn't like that but we don't always want to read real life.

    There are some important rules writers should all follow. And that is presenting a well edited, well formatted book to read. This is important to keep the self published writers from the bad labels we've seen. Write a good story and people will read it. Write a good story that isn't edited and poorly formatted and the writer's friends will read it but few others.

    I really enjoyed your Red Mojo Mama. It was well written and most of all a great story that seemed so real! And the comments about the sex: that's is part of life and it's part of writing about life. You did a great job of giving enough to know the experience was good without all the details. You did a good job. Letting the readers use their imagination is the way to use this important part of life.

    Great post!

  3. Any time you spend worrying if you're normal is probably time ill-spent. Ask yourself if you're kind, if you're doing the best you can to make both yourself AND the people around you happy, but not if you're normal. Who wants to be normal anyway? :) Now if you find yourself in a bell tower with a high powered rifle, THEN you might want to ask yourself if you're normal...

  4. Lady Kathy

    Let me put it this way. And I do so as an ex-student psych nurse. 'Normal' is defined as 'being like most other people'.

    Normal people don't finish writing books.

    The percentage of people who ever finished writing a book is small. The percentage who finished, and got published, self or otherwise, is a lot less.

    You're already not 'normal'. Thank the powers :-P :-).

    I know. 'I didn't mean _that_ bit.' So you mean 'Other well, _bits_ of me aren't normal.'

    Good :-).

    Remember your first love interest? Or lust interest? Were they interesting because they were 'like everybody else'? 'Normal'?

    Or because they _weren't_?

    There's a T shirt I keep thinking of buying for a friend of mine every time I see it. It says 'normal women don't make history'. Since the last T shirt I got her said 'Erotic, exotic and slightly psychotic', I think it would fit.

    If I may step slightly sideways - bugger normal, Lady K. Aye, and a plague o' both it's houses too :-).

  5. Yes. I know. I put an apostrophe in 'it's'. I'm a Bad Person(tm) :-P. But I was typing fast.

    Yes. It's an excuse - I'm a Badder Person(tm) :-P :-P.

  6. Oh, Kathy. You might be telling my life story, a struggle to fit in with people and conventions that I have nothing in common with. I just realized a few years ago that there are people who are envious, jealous of me BECAUSE I tend to stand alone and those types, like your sexually repressed friend, will try to mold you back into a shape that they're comfortable with. Repeat, what THEY are comfortable with. It's been quite an eye-opener to become aware of the weakness of so many other people in this world. They're afraid, not me and not you. You rock.

  7. Shower sex? (Must buy this book) ;) For every diatribe-er out there, there are four others who would disagree with their pov. Love your blog! Keep being you because it's fantastic. :D

  8. Great post! How boring would this world be if everybody was normal?

    And Graeme has the right of it. You almost have to be "abnormal" to be a writer. Easy example... Stephen King. Weirdo! Yet, I've always loved his work.

    Thanks for reminding us it's okay to not be normal. :)

  9. Wow! Somehow, I had missed these posts in October. Graeme, you are a love! Landon - as always thoughtful and thought-provoking, ZenCherry - supportive as usual and Kirkus - so right about Stephen King and others like him. Thank you all for piping up!

  10. I love this post. I'm a therapist and people frequently ask "Am I normal?" I want to shrug my shoulders and duck my head. Who knows? Ditto with healthy, well or evolved. The question I love helping people answer is "Does this work for me?" What works for you won't necessarily work for me - but my job is to help you find that place. this also works well for my adult children - I don't have their answers but if they ask, I can usually help them find those little devils.

    the nice thing about knowing this for others is I have to honor it for myself. and I happily do so. So the answer to your question is "Yes, I write what I want regardless of what people might think.