You Do Not Have to Earn your Weirdness

Us creative types often feel like misfits, outsiders, weirdos. Our whole entire lives.

Because we feel this way, we might decide that unless we do something with our misfitness – preferably something brilliant – all of our suffering and not fitting in has been for naught.

There is something so beautiful about this story – that we must turn our suffering into beauty.  Into light.  Into something that break the frozen sea inside us (to paraphrase misfit Kafka). 

There is also something dangerous in this story – that we must earn our weirdness, that we must redeem it. I love a good redemption story as much as the next gal yet believing I have to redeem my basic nature through doing makes me very queasy.

After I graduated from USC film school, I worked at a very fancy LA talent agency. I rode the elevator with Madonna and flirted with Dustin Hoffman (okay, just once but still!). And on the weekends, I wrote. Every spare minute, I wrote.

Good girl, go, write, learn your craft.

Not so good. I became terribly depressed.

I did so for a number of reasons but a big one was: I had begun to believe my worth as a weirdo = producing good writing that then sold for lots of money and changed lives.


Plus, I was getting no play time, it was work, work, work, strive, strive, strive. Even a 23-year-old can’t do that 24-7.

You are weird. You’re human! So create because you must get that shade of turquoise onto the paper or you must tell the stories of your bizarre family or because you want to have a ticker tape parade in honor of your inventions but don’t create to earn your right to be who you are.

Consider yourself earned.

Oh, and don’t work all the time either. But you already know that. Or you wouldn’t be reading my stuff.

P.S. Need to recharge your creative ju-ju?  Need a space to be and listen to what’s what without needing to make anything happen? Two places to do that in July: my retreat at Kripalu and my retreat in Taos. For wandering, wondering, weirdos. Come join us!

P.P.S. Free totally non-pitch call with Sarah Robinson and me next Tuesday June 22nd! Register here.

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Tweets that mention You Do Not Have to Earn your Weirdness » Comfort Queen -- - June 15, 2010

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jennifer Louden, Jamie Ridler. Jamie Ridler said: RT @jenlouden: You Do Not Have to Earn your Weirdness: Us creative types often feel like misfits, outsiders… […]

jenniferlouden - June 15, 2010

oh it feels good to share our freedom!

Trish, you asked: Is this where the “I have to do SOMETHING (capital, important letters intended) with my life” feeling that is totally frustrating me comes from?

Maybe! I would ask, if I was coaching you, if you had already created enough important things to please every needy part of you and every demanding person in your past, what would you be free to create today?

Susan, do tell when you write about the tree’s whispers. I love your art!!!

Fabeku Fatunmise - June 15, 2010

The timing of this is absolutely perfect for me.

Thank you Jen. Lots.

Jane - June 15, 2010

‘Don’t create to earn your right to be who you are’ – I might write this on my wall!

Trish - June 15, 2010

Wow, Jen! This struck a chord! Is this where the “I have to do SOMETHING (capital, important letters intended) with my life” feeling that is totally frustrating me comes from?

Susan Gallacher-Turner - June 15, 2010

Ok, for me, this quote, “I had begun to believe my worth as a weirdo = producing good writing that then sold for lots of money and changed lives.”

Would be: I believe(d) my worth as an artist/weirdo= producing good art that then sold for lots of money, changed lives and validated my ‘work’.

Been deeply entrenched in this ‘land’ for a while. Today, your words and whispers from the trees on my walk helped me to ‘see’ the quote above for what it was. And to listen for new words, new visions, new reasons to create.
Thanks! If I get brave enough, I’ll post a blog about the new messages I’m hearing from the trees.

Meghan - June 15, 2010

of course:
“Consider yourself earned.”
thank you.

Michelle Leisy - June 15, 2010

Thank you.

For me this translated into I couldn’t really do what I wanted to do because it would never be good enough.

I’m working on changing that.

Andrew Lightheart - June 16, 2010

Mine is: I have to do something totally world-changing (and on a Gandhi-Einstein-Mother Theresa-household-name grand scale) otherwise I haven’t earned the right.

I mean, it’s fine to aspire to that, but to think that I’m worthless to even LIVE without it?


Might go read through those Conditions of Enoughness again…

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo - June 15, 2010

Thank you, Jen. So much time, energy, and joy wasted in exactly this thought: I have to earn the right to have made my unusual choices. I have to justify the unique path I’ve taken.

In 5th grade, my best friend and I declared ourselves “weird”. We owned it, with fierce pride, no earning necessary. Thanks for taking me back to those days and that knowing.

Lynne Tolk - June 16, 2010

Such great timing for me. I just had an epiphany last week where I suddenly knew that I don’t have to write a book, or even write anything at all, to achieve wholeness – to be where I need to be. This is just a fact of my being, and my doing has nothing to do with it.

Thanks, yet again, for reflecting and affirming.

jenniferlouden - June 16, 2010

Erika, that made my day! I love watching my Lilly get more strange — she’s been such a conformist and now letting herself be a tiny bit “freak flag” makes me so happy.

Lynne, I remember, as a younger writer, walking around saying, “I am not my work.” You have given me a great idea for something to do at Taos!

Crescent, we could do a rap/talk about that extra layer of earning that comes with earning your living through creative means. There may be more to say there!

andrew, picturing your sleeping now, knowing you are enough.

Michele, Fabeku, Hiro, Rachel, Leslie, let’s go fly our weirdo flags on the beach today!

Rachel - June 16, 2010

Love this post!

Love, a fellow weirdo 🙂

crescent - June 16, 2010

The phrase “don’t create to earn your right to be who you are” sang out to me, too, Jen.

As always (when I read your words, or when I teach a workshop) I am AMAZED by how badly we treat ourselves, and how persistent is the work to quiet down the hydra-headed “I’m not good enough” monster in its countless disguises.

As you no doubt know firsthand, elements of this post are especially poignant to those of us who are actually fortunate/driven/blessed/hard-working/ in-process enough to actually earn out livings through our creative work. Adds a whole ‘nother layer.

As always, thanks. xxoo

Hiro Boga - June 16, 2010

Lovely, Jen, thank you for this. Permission to be creative, weird and different, for no reason at all other than we just are…

As always, your writing brings a sigh of recognition and relief.

Love, Hiro

Erika - June 16, 2010

So wonderful and inspiring what you write here! Thanks, Jen.

It is amazing how I feel like I know you so well from your posts, videos and blogs. Thanks for that.

I wanted to share a line from my daughter’s mother’s day poem to me. She really gets me. In the middle of all the usual “I love you, Mommy” stuff, she wrote that she loves me because I am “magnificently strange.”

That was my favorite part of her poem.


Cristina - June 16, 2010

Jennifer, as usual your words touch me deep inside: I think I have always tried to earn my weirdness, but you are right, I am enough as I am, and my creativity has the right to express itself for what it is, not for “paying my price” to the world. Thank you very much for all the inspiration you give to me!

Gurl - June 22, 2010

I love this post! I have been proudly outside the social “norm” in many ways for years. I don’t earn it, I live it and I love it! Excellent post with good points for those who feel their worth is tied to their earnings. I know better because I earn nothing right now, but I AM worth more than money could ever purchase 🙂

Marvelous Monday! : Wicked Whimsy - July 12, 2010

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