What is normal?
I think most writers have been labeled “weird” at some point in their lives. (Especially those of us who write science fiction and fantasy!) We like reading more than most people, we’re often into geeky things, we’re happy being totally alone for long stretches of time, we do things in the name of writing and creativity that would land other people in some sort of therapy. (See previous post about talking to oneself while writing!) I think part of why joining the writing community online is so much fun and such a revelation for so many aspiring writers is because you realize for potentially the first time that you’re not alone. You’re not weird–you’re brilliant.
But something that has struck me recently is how, despite finally escaping a world where we’re considered “weird,” so many of us are so concerned with following the “normal” path to publication. What is normal anyway? I mean, really?
Everyone knows by this point that I love me some geekery, so it should come as no surprise to hear that I recently finished rewatching the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation, including the movies. They’re awesome to have on in the background when packing and cleaning, two things I’ve been doing a lot of over the past few months. The only reason I bring this up is that buried in one of the movies was a fantastic quote on normal:
“Normal is what everyone else is and you are not.”
How true is that? It totally blew my mind. Wisdom in science fiction, I tell you.
There’s such a wealth of information on the internet about how to go from aspiring writer to published novelist that, to me, it’s not surprising so many people get caught up in the process. I was talking to a writer friend of mine about her experience landing an agent, and she was saying how stressful she found it. She ended up getting an agent in a slightly different way than “normal,” and ended up having to deal with a significant amount of stress because of that. Not so much that it was hard, as that she felt as though she was skipping parts of the process that she was supposed to have done, because everyone else does it that way, and that’s clearly the “right” way to do it. The normal way.
Yeah, there’s a lot of advice out there on how to go from A to B. But it’s not the only way. It’s not even the correct way, or the best way. It’s just one path. I keep reminding myself of this as I move forward, because I find myself suffering the same thing. “Hang on,” I think to myself, “Friend A got an editorial letter while I’m working more on a back and forth basis with my editor. Is that bad? Am I doing something wrong?” But the thing is, I actually like this way better. It works for me. It might not be “normal” in the strictest sense, in that everyone hears about the editorial letter as the next step in the process, but so far I think it’s the best way possible for me, for this book, with this editor.
I think it’s pretty important not to let “normal” get to us as writers. We haven’t yet–I mean, did any of you stop reading in school when you got teased for being a bookworm? When new acquaintances silently judged you when you said you were a writer? When teachers or critique groups told you that you weren’t writing normal fiction? Of course not. So why let “normal” bog us down us now? Embrace it. When the road diverges, don’t be afraid when you take the one less traveled.
(Robert Frost gets me.)