Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Follow Your Weirdness

by Christa Allan 

I'm in the process of digesting PLATFORM: Get Noticed in a Busy World by Michael Hyatt. And, believe me when I say that anyone who stands 4’11”  (um, that would be me) absolutely needs a platform. 

Of course, raising me to be eye-level with the majority of the universe is not what Mike means. He defines platform as "the means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans

I summoned my creative muses, most of whom listen to me about as much as my children, so we could ponder this idea of connectedness. In a rare display of sympathy, they led me to a quote by Annie Dillard that I'd underlined ages ago. Her suggestion for new writers is (from the introduction of In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind. . .just to prove I didn't make this up:) "Follow your own weirdness." 

 Fortunately for me, that's a short trip.

I realize that, to some--okay, maybe to many--I'm slightly off center. But, I clearly don’t want to stand on the stage of weirdness. Or, in any way, weirdly connect with my present and future fans.

The entirely unexpected weird path I am following, though, is one that leads me to write “not-your-usual Christian fiction.”  My first three novels deal with alcoholism, homosexuality, and race.  When you’re the once divorced, twice married, recovering alcoholic wife of a Jewish husband, mother of twins (one of the two has Down’s Syndrome) plus three other children, a daughter whose husband is black (and she’s not), and sister of a gay brother…well, just where are you going to go with that?

Here’s the exciting part for us as writers: it’s when we write about what we think makes us different that readers most connect with us. 

Few people want to go public with their weirdness because, let’s face it, it’s hard to go back in once you’ve been outed. We’re experts at concealing our insecurities, doubts, fears, yearnings, regrets, resentments…But, just because others can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

As writers, I believe we have to expose ourselves (not in a Bourbon Street stripper way, and not even in a navel-gazing way), but in a way that acknowledges our own “weirdnesses.” Those places where we say to ourselves, “If I say this out loud, I will be placed on a lifetime regiment of drug therapy.” 

You can’t speak it, but your characters can. And when they do, there will be readers out there nodding, saying to themselves, “I didn’t know anyone else felt this or thought this or said this.”

And that, my friend, is a connection.

Where will your weirdness take you?

1841. Ever since her parents died of yellow fever when she was a child, Charotte LeClerc has lived with her grandparents, who rarely speak of their son and his wife. They are on the verge of negotiating a marriage contract with a suitor, a man Charlotte loathes, when they discover that she enjoys the company of Gabriel Girod, a young Creole man. Charlotte's future hangs in the balance as her grandparents consider whether to stop keeping secrets and reveal the truth that they've known since before her birth -- a truth that will make the difference between a life of obligation and a life of choice for Charlotte.


Mary DeMuth said...

Great post and amazing encouragement. I'm there, following my weirdness too.

Gina Holmes said...

Ha, Christa. A writer after my own heart. Love this.

Natalia Gortova said...

I love how we get so introspective that we think we're the only ones who are weird!
Thank you for sharing.

Natalia Gortova

Mocha with Linda said...

You need to come move to Austin, TX and get a Keep Austin Weird bumper sticker!

Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

Ane Mulligan said...

No wonder we make such a good team here ~ we're all west of weird! LOL LOVE this post, Christa!

Michael Ehret said...

Weird! I want to be weird, too! Can I? Can I? (Hint: If you have to ask, you already are.)

Alycia Morales said...

...and I thought I was weird... LOL ... Great post, Christa! love it! I'll have to share it with my characters.

Scribbler said...

For a different experience of Christian "weirdness," I attended the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing in April. Great experience. The session I liked most was the one by Bethany Pierce "Inspirational Fiction and the Promiscuous Reader." Helped me define my own weird writing.
Ann Gaylia O'Barr

Patty Smith Hall said...

The weird and unusual is SO much more interesting that the plain and ordinary! Thanks for coming by today, Christa!

Christa Allan said...

Sorry to be here so late, but I was in meetings all day, and, wait for just now taking a break from peeling 20# of raw shrimp. Be glad blog posts are not scratch-and-sniff!

Bless all of you for your kind words. Michael, we'll let you join as our token normal guy. Guys are weird already... :-)

Thanks, Patty, for the opportunity.

Daniel Decker said...

My mom always told me, "Why be normal?" : ) Embrace weird.

Where There's a Will There's a Way With Words said...

The question of too much, or not enough, God in fiction is one reason I prefer writing poetry. I'm not sure I'll live long enough to see the publishing world get enthusiastic about a real Jesus meeting real people in ordinary heart and mind rendering situations, but I applaud both of today's contributors for at least steering the conversation in that direction!

Thank you.

Gina Conroy said...

No wonder I like you!!