I was in a bit of a writing slump recently and got some great advice from a writer friend of mine: “Just effing do it. You’ve got a story to tell.” It made me start thinking about what I wanted to convey, what I thought was so important I needed to spend the time to say it. The doubter in me immediately said it was pointless; the things I usually think are important aren’t usually what other people care about. And I remembered I’m not the first writer to feel this way.
I remember the first time I realized other people didn’t think the same way I do. And I don’t mean that my brain is so very special (though I am partial to it)–more that other people have a different way of seeing things than I do. I would like to think that everybody come to that realization at some point in their lives. For me, it was in Mrs. Brown’s middle school science class.
Everyone had a class like that: the one where you’re sitting in a seemingly endless 2-hour lecture on a topic you don’t particularly care about, contemplating exactly how long it takes for someone to become bored to death. I remember Mrs. Brown asking the class “What happens when you first step into a hot shower?” I pictured myself stepping into the shower at home and immediately thought “you close your eyes.” Eureka!
I raised my hand (something I tried never to do in that class because my answer was almost always wrong, and public humiliation has never been high on my list of things to do), because I knew I had The Answer, the only answer that anyone could logically come to. But instead she called on someone else (probably because she already realized earlier in the year that I was The Slow Student).
“You get goosebumps,” the other kid said. And Mrs. Brown made much of that answer, because it was exactly what she was looking for.
I sat there, dumbfounded. How could anybody come up with that answer? 1,000 scientists on 1,000 computers Googling for 1,000 years could never come up with that answer! I’m not going to say “goosebumps” is the last thing I would ever come up with, but I’m pretty sure “you slather Nutella over your entire body” would probably come before it.
That’s when I started to get the gist that other people’s brains worked in different ways than mine. And I realized it went both ways: if their brain was different from mine, that meant mine was different from theirs.
Since middle school, I’ve been told I have a unique perspective on things. Sometimes it’s a compliment, usually it isn’t. Usually it’s said in a tone that implies that “unique” is synonymous with “ridiculous.”
And I’m OK with that. Because sometimes that’s true. And I’ll even say that sometimes I think that’s exactly how it needs to be. Sometimes ridiculous is necessary.
I’ve come to realize that artists, in particular, do see the world differently. They see around corners, they see black and white things in sepia, they see the world slightly askew.
This is a very good thing.
So I decided to do A Very
Stupid Brave Thing. Before I lost my nerve, I put a shout-out on Facebook that I was starting a new writing project where I would write a short story every day in September. I asked for 30 volunteers, expecting to get, if I was lucky, 10. Maybe 11, if my mom was online this week.
And right after I posted it, I cringed because it seemed like such a…selfish thing. I was actually assuming someone–no, actually, not someone, 30 someones–would want something I wrote. How big an ego did that indicate I had? Who was I to assume I had anything important to say?
I got 15 volunteers within 20 minutes. I got the other half by the end of the day. And just about every one of them said they were super excited about being a part of this project. So I’m kicking it off. I’ll be posting them here, to keep me honest about them being written in a day, every day starting next Monday. It’s going to be exciting and nerve-wracking and exciting again.
I think, it’s our job, as artists, to show the world the sideways images. When we write, it’s to make sense of or show truths. Sometimes these are truths people don’t like to see. Sometimes they’re truths we are just trying to make sense of. But they are vital. Because other people don’t see things the same way. Because you might help someone see the world in a wonderful new way. Because you might be able to bring hope to someone who failed to see the beautiful things anymore.
You’ve got to be the kid that innocently asks the fat guy in the grocery store why he has breasts. Wonder how giraffes got their patches. Speculate about what’s waiting in the dark. Tell people how big its teeth are.
These are important things. These are ridiculous things. These are things worth saying because you think they are worth your time. And 30 others have said they think it’s worth their time, too.