Jacob Nordby is an author, a teacher of writing and a host of a creative writing podcast. He previously wrote The Divine Arsonist. His new book aims at inspiring creativity for those on the margins. The name of Nordby’s manifesto for creatives, Blessed are the Weird, is drawn from his poem, “Beatitudes for the Weird.” The poem provides a good summary of his vision of creativity:
Blessed are the weird people
—poets, misfits, writers, mystics
heretics, painters & troubadours—
for they teach us to see the world through different eyes
Blessed are those who embrace the intensity of life’s pain and pleasure,
for they shall be rewarded with uncommon ecstasy.
Blessed are ye who see beauty in ugliness,
for you shall transform our vision of how the world might be.
Blessed are ye who are mocked for unbridled expression
of love in all its forms,
because your kind of crazy is exactly that freedom f
or which the world is uncousciously begging.
Blessed are those who have endured breaking by life,
for they are the resplendent cracks through which the light shines. (8)
The people who don’t fit the mold (i.e. a 9-to-5 job, white picket fences and 2.5 kids) have something special to contribute to society. They buck against the status quo and make our world beautiful, and provide us a vision of new possibilities for the future. Nordby celebrates poets, prophetic truth-tellers, comedians, writers, mystics, heretical iconoclasts, activists, painters, filmmakers, rebels, magicians, and songsters. Whatever is in you, Nordby tells you to listen to your heart and become that special snowflake you were always meant to be. If you do, you will live more fully, have a greater degree of satisfaction and a better sex life.
Nordby’s encouragement for creative types is for us to “become what we are.” Rather than apologizing for the weirdo vibe people get from us, we ought to pay attention to what gifts our difference brings to the table (cue Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful). Life and art (and activism) on our own terms. Of course, creativity is more than just following your bliss and being true to yourself. Nordby offers practical advice about facing our fears of failure.
I appreciate Nordby’s encouraging tone. He does get a little too weird for me in places (i.e. a vague spirituality and magicky-talk always gets my Christian hackles up). I also wish Nordby said something more substantive than he does. This felt less like a manifesto and more like a motivational speaker vibe (“Young lady, what are you gonna do with your life?!).”
However, I think he gets a couple things really right. First, if we are going to ever do what we were put on this earth for (draw, write, create, lead change, etc), we have to pay attention to who we are and what unique gifts we have to offer. Second, he highlights the weird—the ones that don’t fit in our society’s mold. If something new and creative is going to happen, it will come from the margins, not the center.
I give this book three stars and recommend it for weirdos.
Notice of material connection: I received this book from SpeakEasy in exchange for my honest review.