Writers are fringe dwellers.
I love listening to BBC Front Row podcasts when I walk, especially when they interview writers. The other day the brilliant Patrick Ness was discussing his new book, The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, a fantastic challenge to the superhero cliche which ignores what Patrick Ness calls ‘the rest of us,’ or, in his comment on writing ‘the fringe dwellers.’
There are some writers who are celebrities, who are brilliant, shiny, in the spotlight people. Most of us, however, are used to watching life from the sidelines. We’ve always felt a little foreign, even when we’re at home. We never feel quite understood or included or heard. Maybe that’s everyone’s experience but I sense that with writers, it goes deeper.
I’ve felt like a fringe dweller most of my life, whether that be sitting on mediterranean beaches like a pale ghost alongside my tanned relatives or having a mother with a German actor which, even in 1985 led to a classmate in my very proper, middle-class private Oxford girls school asking me whether I was a Nazi. I was five at the time. I’ve felt out of step with the world for most of my life. And that leads to a little self-pity every now and then. It gets tiring to swim against the current all the time.
But I know that it’s a gift too. It’s what lets me see the world a little differently, it’s what helps me to observe (the shiny people in the spotlight don’t listen or see very much, it’s all too bright up there). Being a fringe dweller is what makes me a writer.
So today, if you’re a writer – a fringe dweller – like me, celebrate it and use it to write better.