Guest Post: The Myth of Normal

Photo credit: Lil Larkie on Flickr
Normal people are weird. 

Normal people: in our definition, anyone who is not either writing a book or talking about writing one while attending every Con in the proximity of 500 miles. All those accountants, stockbrokers, engineers, car mechanics, and (God love ‘em) the people who clean your hotel room. Someone who does not know what a TARDIS is, or the proper way to address Elven royalty.

They are the ones who ask us to take out the trash while we are furiously, tearfully trying to finish that chapter that we’ve been agonizing over for the last week. We chain ourselves to our keyboards, pouring our souls into a story that will change lives, and they loudly ask when we’re getting a real job.

Sometimes we don’t like normal people.

And we let it show. We make barbed comments about them on social media. We avoid coming into contact with them whenever possible. We treat them like an inferior species, a lower rung in the evolutionary process. Because we are Writers, and they are normal people who cannot possibly understand or appreciate the complex workings of our lofty and inspired minds.

I thought this way once. I still struggle with thinking this way. But I’ve come to a realization in recent years, as I’ve come to know the people around me a little better.

There is no such thing as a Normal Person.

Writers, artists, and creatives are not the only people who feel insecurity and self-doubt. Or anxiety, or inadequacy, or crushing loneliness. We are not the only ones who feel like we don’t fit in.

Basically, everyone is a little bit weird. They’re just weird in different ways. And because we don't “get” each other's weirdness, we slap around labels like “artsy hippie-ish weirdo” and “boring engineering major weirdo.”

I’ve read so many books and blog posts talking about how you shouldn’t be apologetic about your writerly needs or idiosyncrasies, that the people around you need to come to accept and understand you as you are. And I agree with that. But how often do we try to accept and understand the people around us?

We as writers and creatives have a tendency to burrow away from the rest of humanity. It’s partly fear, partly an elitism complex, and often because we have been legitimately hurt by “normal people” who don’t understand how our minds work. But can I just say that I think burrowing is one of the worst things a storyteller can do?

Because we’re not just writing stories for other writers. We’re also writing for all those accountants, stockbrokers, engineers, and burger-flippers, those quirky, messed-up bundles of human weirdness. And if we don’t understand those people—what turns them on, what makes them tick, what makes them cry—we’re not going to write stories worth reading.

So go find some normal people. Get to know them. You may need them way more than you think.

Braden Russell is an aspiring author and music instructor who writes weird speculative fiction from his wilderness home in Oklahoma. You can find him blogging about writerly things at his website The Storymonger.

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Story_Monger reminds us "we’re not just writing stories for other writers" on @Ava_Jae's blog. What do you think? (Click to tweet)  
If we don't try to understand others "we're not going to write stories worth reading." (Click to tweet)


Anne girl said...

Great post Braden! I used to be a "normal" person {writing only bit me about three years ago} but I still struggle with this.

EB_Black said...

I agree. Even though I sometimes complain about being judged by "normal" people, but I know by far that my job isn't the only job that gets judged by others. I've tried other career paths and faced other types of criticism. And I get fascinated by people and the hardships they had to face in order to live their dreams.

I am an introvert. Not because I hate people, but because I like doing introverted hobbies like reading. But I still go out and meet a lot of interesting people. When I hear their stories, I always wonder if it's possible to put some of it into one of my books.

Ava Jae said...

Haaa. I agree. Though I'm biased. :)

Ava Jae said...

I thought it was a fantastic reminder, too. :)

Ava Jae said...

That's a great point about other jobs getting judged as well—we're certainly not the only ones dealing with more than our fair share of criticism.

RoweMatthew said...

And writers always win because we think ourselves better and we ensnare the normal people with our books, proving their weaker minds and our superiority all from the comfort of our laptop. We don't need to hide away from them. We should rule over them proudly.

Normal just means the majority of those not in my social group. It's not a set level or anything

Braden Russell said...

Agreed on both accounts! ;)

Braden Russell said...

Good points! And that's another great reason to get to know the people around us--because the characters we write about are not all going to be "weird people".

Braden Russell said...

Thank you! And congratulations on your transformation. ;)

Braden Russell said...

Thanks so much for having me, Ava!

Ava Jae said...

You're so very welcome! Thanks for your wonderful post!

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