Another busy week, pardon the silence. Our text for today: On Being Weird.
I had a conversation some time back with a fellow writer where we both talked about how we're just not that interested in trying to slap together easily marketed clichés and call that writing. We both wanted to do something else, follow our own paths. We were, in his words, "wired weird".
Weird is one of those words that has all but done an about-face in its implications, culturally. Once upon a time, for many people, there was scarcely more savage a pejorative than to call someone or something "weird". Now it's the opposite — weirdness is a goal, something to seek out and strive for.
Trouble is, with that you have what I call the fallacy of cultural intention. You can't invent a cult sensation; cult status gets conferred on things after the fact, as a by-product of how they're received and enjoyed. Likewise, it's hard to be self-consciously weird. William S. Burroughs was weird, in big part because he wasn't trying. He embodied all the things he'd been through, and most of that stuff was so alien and outlandish it defied categorization, let alone analysis.
Around the time I turned thirty, it hit me there was no way to create weirdness as a conscious, deliberate goal. Some of that was waking up and realizing I'd lived entirely too protected and safe a life to ever classify as having high weirdness in the blood, at least by my standards. The only thing I had to my credit was the ambition to go make something and affix to it whatever thumbprint of mine I could make legible on it. Go make something, and go make it mine. Weirdness didn't have to figure into it.
Here's how I see it. The mere act of being creative is weird enough for many people. They may not say so to your face, but the weirdness is there all the same. And not the cool kind of weirdness, either; not the kind of weird rewarded with sly labels like "Tales of the Strange" and "bizarro fiction". The ostracized kind of weird. The kind of weird where people say "Oh, that's nice" and then don't ever bring up the subject again. Or, worse, the kind of weird that's condescended to, and thus made no longer weird, the kind where people goggle at you and then say "I wish I could do that," or start talking about "this idea for a novel I should write someday" and you start looking for a handy fire alarm to pull so you can get out in a hurry.
In that light, "weird" amounts to one of two things. A), a marketing label, meaning there's really no "weird" there at all. B), an actual pejorative, something that's routinely applied to people seeking their own shooting star.
Don't do weird. Just do you.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind