Like me, you’ve probably experienced some singularly unhelpful encouragement somewhere along the line to “quit being so weird.” But whether you’ve received outright rejection or physical coercion, it probably hasn’t worked. Many people think the world doesn’t need our kind. So should we call up Extreme Makeover and beg them to help us fit in?
Why didn’t we ignore those bullies and just forget about it? Who knows. Instead, we consoled ourselves with imaginative stories where “our kind” were the unlikely heroes. And eventually tried our hand at writing and set out to find the really great, new, exciting character we’d always wanted to be.
The problem with this is that we just aren’t great, new, exciting people. We’re strange, misfit geeks. New fiction writers all suffer from this common delusion of becoming that really great, new, exciting person. And the delusion obscures The True Goal.
What makes us think stories are going to save us from geekiness? Or worse, why do we think we can convince the world they were missing out on us all those years misunderstanding us? We sort of sense The True Goal deep down is striving toward elusive mysteries. But we need each other to basically keep smacking the good sense back into our heads, that we can’t write fiction to teach. Say it with me: “I can’t write fiction to teach. I can only write fiction to learn.”
As Scott Cairns says, our job is to find out what we don’t know about ourselves. The goal isn’t to be made-over, but to expose our misfit souls and search for the truth. And if we happen to find it—well, we won’t. But that’s our True Goal. And that’s why our really great, new, exciting—and true—work is to revel in the wondrous, geeky people we are.
Okay, young geeks. More tomorrow.