stay weird

Confession: I loved Graham Moore’s Oscar speech.

For those of you who missed it or had something better to do than watch an awards show (gasp!), here’s the latter part of what he said:

“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here, and so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: yes you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird. Stay different. And then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”

There’s been a surprising amount of backlash about his comments. Specifically, that he didn’t make his statement about sexual orientation, since his Oscar was for a movie about Alan Turing, a scientist who was gay. (See this article.)

I find the negativity terribly disappointing. How could you be upset at someone for not saying exactly what you would like them to say?

Graham Moore’s words were not less valid or less true simply because he wasn’t promoting a cause like most of the other celebrities. There are plenty of people who, like him, struggle with depression, feel like they don’t fit in, and wonder if they ever will. Are they somehow less important because they don’t represent a cause?

Of course not. And how dare anyone shame Moore for sharing his experience and offering hope. Must every statement be a social commentary or a call-to-action? Is Moore’s experience any less valid because he’s a straight, white male? I’m not saying Hollywood doesn’t have diversity issues. But why are we diminishing Moore’s words because his depression didn’t spring from a struggle with his sexual identity?

That’s like saying someone who grew up wealthy cannot possibly know what it is to feel neglected, or that someone who excelled academically could never feel like a failure. How can we possibly judge someone else’s experience? Depression is no respecter of class, race, sexual identity, or life experiences.

Within Hollywood, overdoses and suicide attempts are sadly common. But outside that world, there is still a major stigma attached to depression, so Moore’s choice to be honest and reveal something about himself was incredibly brave. On a night when celebrities were using their time to draw attention to causes (admirable, no doubt), Moore took the time to share a message of hope to whoever needed it instead of limiting it to a specific population.

Stay weird. Stay different. You belong.

Powerful words.

Thank you, Graham Moore. I plan to stay weird. I hope you do the same.

it’s about to get real

Confession: I hate it when writers complain about how hard it is to write.

I’m not gonna pretend it’s always easy, as if the moment you sit down, inspiration comes streaming in like sunlight through an open window in summer.

Yes, there are days when you sit and stare at a blank page and it stares back at you, unblinking, trying to suck your soul dry and make you question everything. There are days when it’s incredibly hard work to get words on the page, and even harder work to make sure those words aren’t the worst drivel you’ve ever written. I get that.

But.

It’s a privilege to do what you love. Do you realize how many people get up every morning and go to a job they hate, simply because they don’t feel like they have any other option? That my friends is hard. The occasional day when writing feels like a job instead of a passion ain’t nothin’ in comparison.

(You can tell I feel strongly about something when my southern ghetto side comes out, m’kay chil’?)

How can you possibly sit in a comfy chair at a desk in your home office or at your local coffee shop, creating characters and worlds and plots, and complain about it? You get to do what you love. (And if you don’t love it, stop. Right now. Because your potential readers deserve better.)

I’m gonna go ahead and say that again. Ya’ll better listen up.

You’re working your dream job. Yes, some of you have other jobs and a lot of times those “gotta pay the bills” jobs aren’t the most fun. But it’s writing you complain about?

Unh-unh. Not on my watch. I’m callin’ you out.

Of course it’s not easy. Do you think it would be as meaningful if writing a book were as simple as alphabetizing files? I’m glad it’s hard. It weeds out the casual hobbyists from the in-it-for-lifers. It forces us to be better, to push past the difficulties, and makes us appreciate the easy days so much more.

Even on the worst days, when you’re stuck in revision hell or you have a plot that’s unraveling faster than your latest attempt at knitting, you get to live a dream, a passion. You chose this life and it chose you. And that, ladies and gents, is an honor.

So I’m holding us to a higher standard. I’m challenging writers to stop whining and, well, write. We have the best job in the world (in my humble opinion 😉 ) and an entire sea of opportunities for growing and reaching people with our art.

Shame on us for complaining when the words don’t come as quickly as we’d like.

So let’s stop sharing our heartbreaking writing woes on Facebook and Twitter, and go write something like it’s a beautiful gift we’re meant to share with the world. Because it may very well be.