Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fitting In and Standing Out

As I think on my fifth conference experience in Nashville last weekend, I can’t help but shuffle these concepts around in my mind. Such a strange dichotomy of two parts of the acceptance we all crave. Seemingly opposite sides of the same cosmic coin we always want secure in our pocket like an ace to be played when the cards turn and the social games begin.

Life is not a popularity contest by any stretch, but even though torturous memories of high school have long since faded in the rear view mirror, some part of that girl resurrects in a crowded room, hoping for better luck with a combination of the two this time around.

I’m an extrovert. I love being surrounded by people. Their stories unfolding before my eyes. Will the fleeting touch of our separate lives make an impact or will we simply part ways without making waves? It’s fascinating. The social equation is always in flux and variable x is as finicky my a five-year-old.

No two people have the same dynamic as another pair or group. That is precisely why relationships can be so tricky. But I can’t help but compare that to a writer’s relationship with a reader. As an author, my words form bonds with those who open the page on that connection. It can be next to impossible to know if we click in some elemental way. If I stirred the waters or failed to make a ripple?

Did I fit in to their expectation? Fall short? Exceed? 

That all sounds very needy, but it is at the heart of why writers write. Sure, a part of it stems from our need to create. But a much bigger part comes from having something to say, longing to be heard, and wanting to impart something that lingers long after The End.

It’s a tricky business, fitting in. You might blend into the crowd if you fit in too much, becoming relegated to those never-ending slush piles of stories you would tell differently (and awesomely) if anyone ever took the time to read them. But in the same yet opposite way, you can also become a risk when you stand out too much. If you don’t fit one of any number of molds people don’t quite know where to put you, so they end up leaving you behind to lurk in the lobby. No publishing power team, no clique, no white knight. Instead you find yourself peeking into everyone else’s seemingly effortless, well-balanced success from the shadows. An outcast. Or a rebel. Someone too ordinary to be noticed or too extraordinary to know what to do with.

Where is that sweet spot? And when do you really get to be yourself and be accepted for just who you are?

I wish I knew the answer. I wish there was some formula I had applied with success so I could impart wisdom instead of simple musings of another lobby lurker.

But the thing I know for certain is that you were meant to tell stories no one else can tell. The power of your voice and your testimony shines through if you have the courage to just keep speaking.

Sometimes in order to stand out you simply can’t fit in. Maybe you weren’t meant to.

Maybe you’re the next J.K. Rowling, refusing to be silenced until someone finally hears you. Millions of someones. Or maybe you’re you, speaking for just one person that might only ever be yourself.

The only sure way to fall into social exile is to take yourself out of the game and exile yourself. It’s not a race. And it’s not a contest. Sometimes we’re just trying too hard to fit in, when in fact we were born to stand out.

Have you ever struggled to fit in, or do you fit in too well? And can you pinpoint what it is about your writing that makes you unique and what makes you ordinary? Sometimes that knowledge is power. And sometimes that power can be used to help you find the right social circle where you both fit and shine. That is where your audience awaits. 

Talk to me … <3

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Amy Leigh Simpson writes romantic mysteries with honesty and humor, sweetness and spice, and gritty reality covered by grace. When she’s not stealing moments at naptime to squeeze out a few more adventures in storyland, she’s chasing around two tow-headed miscreants (Ahem)—boys, playing dress up with one sweet princess baby, and being the very blessed wife to the coolest, most swoon-worthy man alive. Amy is a Midwestern-girl, a singer, blogger, runner, coffee-addict, and foodie. Her Sports Medicine degree is wasted patching up daily boo boo’s, but whatever is left usually finds its way onto the page with fluttering hearts, blood and guts, and scars that lead to happily ever after.

Check out her NEW romantic mystery novel FROM WINTER'S ASHES! Available NOW!


Krista Phillips said...

Mulling this concept over this morning, my head and heart going in crazy sporadic directions.

I'll be honest. I definitely have a fear of standing out too much... (like worrying about my wardrobe malfunction on gala night that left me feeling like I was baring my cleavage for all to see.... sorry guys who might read this...) I have enough introvert in me that I simply want me writing to stand out.. but not my person.

Yet I still love people. I LOVE conference and I LOVE hugging friends and I LOVE laughing and joking around like I'm 16 again at times. But I was different, even at 16. I was never one to primp in front of the mirror, in fact I felt super ugly so I just stayed away from the mirror whenever possible. (super honest moment here for a comment, HAHA.)

But at the same time, this conference I felt God pulling me toward deeper relationship with him. To forget about standing out or fitting in but to focus on Jesus and having a relationship with him, to write stories with him and not just for myself, not just to fit in or to stand out. To not measure my worth, my beauty, my success, on things like sales and contracts and the number of FB friends or twitter followers I have.

But to be so focused on Jesus that all those things are fine and good but they fade dramatically in comparison with the love relationship I have with my Savior.

It is so hard, because I am far from there. And I don't think it means God doesn't want us to stand out, he just wants to make sure we're standing out for all the right reasons. He wants to make sure that as children of God, we shine forth HIS light as we do, or sometimes maybe in the masses that are fitting in, we are a light that can be catching and as a whole, we can glow bright like the sun.

Geez. Longest comment I've ever made. Like I said, my thoughts are many today! HAHAHA

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Krista, I can't even say how much I love this! Standing out for the right reason is at the crux of it, for sure! Love your heart here. Love the transparency. Love you! Thank you for sharing!!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

LOVE your thoughts here and I love Krista's comment thoughts, too. I relate more to the introverted side of things and as much as I love conference sometimes I need that compression time afterwards. For one I can never seem to ingest what God really wants until I'm in my prayer closet later. One dynamic is I want to be thoughtful in my relationships. I neither want to force them , nor do I want to manufacture them into what I want. God is planning to use the writing community to shape all of us into his image. So its important in our interactions I believe that we don't disrupt the process and are prayerful about how God can use others in our lives and how we can be used in their lives.

Catherine West said...

It's fascinating that so many of us came home from conference this year thinking about this. What's up with that?? This year I struggled with my 'new normal' of being published with a big house and having a ton of people want to talk to me about my book, as opposed to, um, 2. :) I've always struggled with feeling of inferiority, inadequacy, always feeling like I'm on the outside looking in. Wouldn't you know it, satan got me good with this over the weekend. Here I am, having just launched a book that people (most) seem to like, and I'm worrying about not fitting in. Because everyone affiliated with my publishing house already know each other really well, they're big award-winners, eloquent, confident, and I am none of these things. I felt very much an outsider, looking at all the cool kids - yep, all those wonderful high school feelings came back to haunt me. But I think God allowed that so I could re-focus on what's important. And that is only Him. Who I am in His eyes. Whether I am ever successful in the eyes of the world really doesn't matter as long as what I do honors Him. Sure it's always nice to feel like you fit in, but if you don't, okay, well, you are still cool in God's eyes, right? But I probably do need a little more confidence in these situations. :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

So true, Jules!!!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Cathy, I'm in the same (or at least similar) boat! Sure, I'm published now but I've by no means "arrived"... So you start to feel like a poser of some sort. Some weird hybrid in between. (I especially felt this way because I've pubbed in Gen Market and bucked the traditional course and the traditional dream). Still loved the community but felt like an outsider in many ways. I'm so glad this resonated! And I loved seeing you! (Though it wasn't quite enough!) xo

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Hi and may I start with what a pleasure it was to get to meet some of the Alley Cats at ACFW this (my first) year. I love this post. It's so much a part of what got me to ACFW in the first place--looking for where I fit in.

I write general market tone (and often subject) with a flair of faith. In other words... I don't fit in all that well anywhere. I'm too Christian for the secular market and to secular for the Christian market. But oh man, did I feel the love and acceptance at ACFW.

Finding my place in writing will require some give and take, but so does just about everything if you're looking for genuine, positive connection.

Thanks for posting and I hope to run into you all again soon!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Amy! That is exactly like me! I am published in the general market. I write gritty, real life, faith inspired fiction for a more secular audience. I'm too honest for some more conservative readers and too clean for the more riske secular readership. But! Be encouraged, there is a market for this kind of fiction. I'm plowing the field one reader at a time :) loved meeting you!