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.