Editor’s note: this is a guest post by J. P. Cabit of The House of Happy.
Hi—I’m J. P. I paint late at night, I have a picture of Neil Armstrong hanging on my wall, and I’ve spent the past year searching for a pair of pants that fit (they don’t seem to make real skinny pants anymore—not the squeeze-you-till-you-suffocate kind, I mean honestly and reasonably skinny). Our gracious host, Ollin, had asked me to write a piece about the importance of randomness. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that sometimes, especially in writing, randomness is not so much a conscious choice as it is a simple sense of observation.
What Do You Choose To Focus On?
At the beginning of all this, what I didn’t tell you about myself was that I like to watch movies, I follow those links on Twitter (the focused writer’s worst enemy!), I play the piano, and I was brought up eating macaroni & cheese. There’s nothing quite so random in that, is there? I’ve probably just named about half of the U.S. population. But I didn’t choose to point out those facts at first—I chose to point out my tireless night habits, my homage to the first man on the moon, and my never-ending quest for pants. These items, I hope, made me a slightly more interesting person than if I had pointed out the conventional details of my life…and for that matter, the details of the life of half the U.S. population.
So what is a conventional person like? They talk about the weather… how the sun is shining today just like they hope it will all weekend. Every Monday, they wish it was Friday. When they think about the letter A, an apple comes to mind. When they see red and green, they think of Christmas. Basically, they swallow every stereotype that society puts out for them to eat.
A truly conventional person will follow every hint, and nod at every cue.
So… Do All Conventional People Get Banished To The Isle of “Boring?”
I have to insert here that being a conventional person doesn’t make you a Batman super-villain. Being “Normal” doesn’t somehow exclude you from some ancient secret society known as “The Nonconventionals…” Being “Normal” doesn’t cut you off from the land of interesting…But it will—my apologies—make you somewhat predictable.
I’m not saying that you have to do everything differently. You can like burgers. You can enjoy a good roller coaster. You can watch baseball. Every boy is allowed to wish he had a life like Jim Hawkins…And yes, all you young ladies, you are allowed to fall in love with Austen’s Mr. Darcy. (Even if he did die, like, a hundred years ago.)
But if you want to be an interesting person, and a good writer, look beyond that, and you may start to see just how special you are. Talk about what kind of cows the burgers were made from, and which farm they were raised on. Talk about who built the roller coaster, and how halfway through the construction, a wedding postponed it for a year. Talk about how the baseball players play cards while they sit in the dugout, and how the coach’s favorite pastime is actually watching Tchaikovsky ballets.
Be the art connoisseur who looks at the Mona Lisa and notices the bridge over her left shoulder, instead of talking about her hackneyed grin.
Captain Obvious Is Overrated
Everyone can point out a black sweater, or a drawn curtain, or an open piano. But who notices the shoelace that skips a hole; who notices how the wisp of smoke from a chimney mingles with swiftly-moving August clouds; who notices the upside-down biography on the bookshelf; who notices the misplaced strand of hair on the forehead, the infinitesimal tilt of a puzzled eyebrow?
…Because maybe, being a truly random person is not so much about being odd, as it is about dwelling on the forgotten, ignored little things.
J. P. Cabit is a writer of children’s books, currently seeking representation for his puzzle-mystery MG novel, Because of the Blue Bloods. He lives in America with his (sometimes mischievous) houseplants—Planty, Gershwin, Arun, Gloriette, and Sofie. When he’s not busy keeping his plants out of trouble, he blogs at The House of Happy
Do you find that putting lots of “Random” details in your writing tends to make it more interesting? Look around your world—what little things are waiting to be noticed?
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