Sometimes I look at all the Olympic champions, Nobel prize winners, and politicians out there on their podiums and I smile.
I know what real achievement feels like, kiddos, and it’s the sensation of having not only your origins called into question but also your entire existence.
Not even in a weird, prejudiced way either. No, friends, I’m talking about being so goddamn weird that an entire lecture hall full of people accused my friend of just…making me up. In her mind.
And it all began with Rosemary, drugstore-brand scented candles, and a (very) amateur high school exorcism.
The Time I Tried To Perform A Highly Unqualified Exorcism
Look, I’m the first to admit that my interests have always been…well, varied, to say the least.
At one point they happened to center around a weird cocktail of the occult, the new age, and a few random cultural practices from ancient Mesopotamia. So, naturally, I was the first person my friend (who we’ll call Veronica) approached upon discovering that her home was by all accounts really fucking haunted.
Maybe you don’t believe in all that woo-woo spooky stuff, but that’s not my problem. If it makes you feel better we can assume that my friend’s home and family were being tormented by a very violent, very sneaky radioactive rat from the public sewers.
I choose to believe it was a ghost. And a really shitty one, at that. Was it possibly a demonic entity? I don’t know, but I decided I was definitely qualified to deal with the problem either way.
Things being thrown across rooms by invisible forces? No problem. Food mysteriously rotting in the space of a moment? My specialty. Your mom gets randomly possessed and does some seriously creepy shit at 4am? Well, okay, that part is kind of beyond my pay grade (note: I wasn’t getting paid) but I figured I’d give it a shot.
I watched Ghost Hunters. I knew what to do.
Anyway, I went over to that poltergeisted shitshow and I gave it the ol’ college try. I’m talking chanting, I’m talking sage burning, and I’m DEFINITELY talking theatricality. As many have said before and since, I’m what the kids call “extra.”
I also called on a number of random, culturally-appropriated goddesses, and I guess they helped because stuff stopped flying into walls for a while after I was done. Thanks, Ishtar and Bastet. Girls gotta stick together, y’know?
After this affair was ended I enjoyed an even stronger friendship with Veronica, and as a bonus effect her asshole stepbrother was henceforth genuinely terrified of me. Get f***ed, dude.
MFA Students Can Be Real Dicks
Fast forward several years, and my friend was taking some writing classes as a part of her double major. One of her assignments was to write up a true story from her life that would then be workshopped.
So, she chose the exorcism, naturally.
Frankly, I’m not sure why she needed to include the fact that I was, among other things, a self-professed Wiccan-Universalist-Paranormal Investigator/semi professional bellydance instructor at that time, but I suspect that this may be where the whole “this chick is definitely made up” issue began.
In fact, I was apparently SO ridiculous a character that Veronica was downgraded for including “fictional elements” in her true story. It was me. I was the fictional element.
Not the ghost, not the objects flying unaided through her house…just me. The person who couldn’t POSSIBLY be real.
To defend her honor my friend tried to explain the fact that I AM real. “No, no, she’s my best friend! She’s an author, and she collects arrowheads and rescues Savannah cats and is a bisexual witch who only dates brown guys and….”
Well, she tried.
My Reactions To Things Are PERFECTLY NORMAL, Thank You. Just Kidding. That Would Be Boring.
Eventually, Veronica ended up at my house, as she often does (pre-pandemic) for our weekly baking-and-writing session.
“Emily, you have a lot of really random interests. You’re very…unique.”
I took issue with the tone in which this dire pronouncement was issued. “I’m not that weird,” I scoffed, looking up from my large shoebox of painstakingly-identified indigenous lithics, my homemade apron only slightly askew as I expressed my indignation. “I just get bored really easily.”
“Well, my entire class, including the professor, took points off my recent paper because they said I made you up.”
There was a pause. “That’s…freaking awesome,” I declared, thrilled beyond measure.
I had MADE IT, y’all. I was finally worthy of that most coveted of writerly titles: I was an eccentric author.
God, it feels good. And as it so happens, I want you to feel good as well. I can only surmise that you, too, would like to be known as an eccentric author, because of course you do. It’s THE goal, right?
Self-Proclaimed Expertise You Should Definitely Listen To
Since I’m now an expert on this subject (my mom told me so), I will share with you the secrets of our most honorable trade.
To become a true eccentric, the key is to balance a slightly unhinged dedication to your hobbies with a simultaneous lack of social awareness. Easy, right?
Really though, you must have hobbies. If you don’t, that’s step one in the journey toward eccentricity — go find some weird sh** to do on a semiregular basis.
For example, I’m preparing to take up snakehead fishing this Spring. These invasive fish are a perennial problem for the delicate water ecosystem of my home region, and also they’re really cool looking and apparently taste good. I want to beat the current snakehead catch-record.
Why not? I’ve got fishing rods. I know how to kayak. It’ll be fun, and they might put me in the local newspaper if I succeed! And then I can put a byline about how I’m a bigshot author, and all the old people who read the local newspaper will go out and buy my raunchy fantasy romance novels.
It’ll be great.
Embracing Absurdity Is The Only Way To Live
You see, writers, we are meant to be preposterous. It’s how we get good at what we do. Being a ridiculous person gives you inspiration — it breeds stories.
We enjoy a career path that gives us a license to break all social boundaries and norms “for our art.” That’s right- you tack on that three-word smackaroony of a phrase, and people don’t even question you.
“Why are you spending 3 hours a day catching snakehead fish while listening to Bardcore music on your phone?”
“It’s for my art.”
“Oh, cool. Are you going to write a book about it?”
Bam. You’re left in peace to catch your delicious invasive Chinese dinner while listening to the medieval remix of Eurythmics’ hit single, “Sweet Dreams.”
At the same time, the legends surrounding you begin to grow. The whispers begin to…whisper(???). Eccentricity is an organic process, and this is how the seeds are planted.
Be Self-Centered. Kind Of?
The next step on this lauded path is a commitment to selective selfishness. I’m not talking about becoming a grade-A organic asshole. If you already are one, fine, but that’s a whole separate part of your brand.
What I mean by selective selfishness is a basic determination to follow your whims. I suppose it means becoming whimsical. Whenever your curiosity is peaked, pay attention. Feed it!
In a writer’s creative mind, curiosity is a hungry beast. When you don’t give it the nutrition it needs, you get writer’s block, burnout, or any number of equally unpleasant conditions. Worse than a genital rash, if you ask me.
As usual, I digress. But when you are going about your day, make an effort to note the times when you feel a spark of curiosity. Put it in your phone, write it down somewhere, whatever works — just briefly note what you were doing and whatever topic you felt pulled toward.
Let that little tug guide you where it will. Maybe it’ll become a hobby or an experience, or maybe you’ll just learn a few more odd and useless fun facts for your collection. Either way, it’s a win-win!
The fact that I have ADHD out the ass puts me at a slight advantage in this area, but the mindset is possible for anyone to cultivate. It lives deep inside of you and hides beneath all those layers of conditioning, self-beliefs, and rude judgments that always seem to emerge in your first boyfriend’s annoying, stoner-esque voice.
Dig down in there, folks, and drag that eccentricity out by the balls. Most of the time it can’t do it alone, and you need to reflect on your whims and curiosity until it’s able to emerge in all of its glittering, societally-disapproved glory.
The moment you become eligible for assumed non-existence is the moment you become truly free as an artist. From that moment on your words will soar, bolstered up by the knowledge that they really are unique.
Stay Gold, Pony Boy, And Also F*** The Haters (But Not Like, Erotically)
Few of us realize how pervasive our limiting self-beliefs are by the time we reach adulthood. When you take up the pen and become a writer in earnest, those beliefs have a nasty habit of slipping in unrecognized to hamper our progress.
Whether they come in the form of doubt, tension, or a vague feeling of impossibility, your inner haters have the potential to totally derail your creative joy.
Tell it to f*** off. Transcend its arbitrary boundaries, which are really just the boundaries set by uncreative, unhappy, and unfulfilled people who don’t want to believe that you can literally just do things without getting permission from some invisible social lawmaker.
The naysayers are trapped in an illusion. Ironic, isn’t it? But those who embrace the most radical expressions of their creativity, and who support and amplify their vast, inner human curiosity? These are the ones who, as they say, “know what’s up.”
These are the eccentrics of the world, and it’s time you joined the ranks. Fly free, my flock, and escape the surly bonds of that annoying know-it-all from your friend’s MFA program. Perform that exorcism. Catch those huge, pissed-off looking fish you saw on local daytime television.
Be weird as f*** and take borderline carnal pleasure in doing so. Be a swan amongst ducks.
It’s well worth it, I promise.