After days of traveling and teaching, I experienced an epiphany: People think writers are unusual.
Some writers want to be odd. They talk about how strange they are, as if strangeness is to be cultivated.
I have news for you. My many close writer friends are socially acceptable. You could have dinner with any of them in a public place and no one would stare. (Well, once I was eating with Jim Bell and the late Stephen Bly when they nearly erupted in a duel over the worth of the movie Shane, but that’s another story).
On the other hand, I took my daughter to art school a couple of years ago, and I stared at everyone there. You want to know strange? Get thee to an artists’ colony. Unconventional appearance is the convention.
Strange is communal
Maybe, you say, I don’t notice that my novelist friends are strange because I’m strange. I beg to differ. Ever been to an Amway convention? Hung out with circus folk? Gone backstage at a dog show? Everyone is strange in his or her way. When like minds congregate, the strangeness shows.
One of my favorite writing books is Dare To Be a Great Writer by Leonard Bishop. One entry was written tongue in cheek. Bishop writes that once you become a best-selling author, you need to cultivate a writer’s mystique:
“No longer have casual conversations. Conduct orations. Not with passive platitudinous ponderosities, but with dynamics and charm. Use the body language of a shadow-boxing pugilist. Develop cunning facial expressions. Grimace as though pained with profundity. Wink, pout, sigh, crack your knuckles in contemplation. Use a repertoire of snappy jokes employed by any popular dentist. Be direct, outspoken, bold. Do not become subtle or ethereal with implication. Audiences are not talented at grasping existentialist innuendo. Rehearse being extemporaneous.”
I respond with a (genteel) snort. While my teaching can be a little over the top with body language, acting, and humor, that springs from an earnest desire to keep my audience awake.
Writing requires hard work. Writing a good novel takes hard work and endless hours. Writing an artistic novel takes even more. Writing an artistic novel that doesn’t put people to sleep? That takes total commitment.
There are surgeons who strive for excellence—and teachers who do so in order to influence young lives. There are broadcasters, mothers, fathers, architects, pastors, and dog groomers—all of whom commit their lives and their careers to excellence for the glory of God.
Does that make them weird? Sure, in a sea of mediocrity, they stand out. But in the light of eternity, not at all. They’re the called. They are committed to going the extra mile and writing the extra draft. And they are the ones who will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I aspire to be one of them, but I don’t think that makes me odd. Just called.
Angela Hunt, author of The Fine Art of Insincerity, among many others, is off to practice positing profundities. Visit her online.