It’s FRIDAY FREE DAY – Being a PURPLE COW writer

Friday blog days will be silly or stream of consciousness or who knows what will strike my fancy. The idea comes from the years I taught elementary school physical education classes. Great job compared to my years of teaching reading and language arts with all those papers to grade. LOL

I wore shorts to school and lesson plans were easy because every Friday’s plan read Free Day. The other P.E. teacher and I put out assorted equipment and allowed the kids to have supervised free time during class. Things may have changed as far as teaching P.E. goes, who knows? But Friday’s on the blog will be free, crazy, and definitely fun. 

Today’s topic is purple cows. I’m also testing a principal I learned from Kristin Lamb’s WANA class on social media–a snappy subject line. Did it grab your attention???

Why a purple cow blog? Because I’ve always been intrigued by the work of Gelett Burgess and especially his poem about the purple cow.

Burgess, a fascinating Bohemian, wrote other whimsical, nonsense poetry, but THE PURPLE COW is by far the most famous. I know I’ve quoted it a gazillion times. Though, like most people, I leave off the second line of the title: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least. Pity too because that’s where the essence lies.  Here’s the original the poem as published in 1895.


Purple cow is a metaphor for something that is out of the ordinary, something remarkable. Maybe Bugress didn’t personally want to be considered different.  In reality he was. Some say his works inspired Dr. Seuss. The Gelett Burgess Center for creative expression, organized to honor his creativity, gives The Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Awards yearly. It’s not the Caldecott, but still a prestigious honor for a children’s book.

Too many people do not want to take chances and be that Purple Cow, to stand out from the rest. To conform is to be comfortable, and many of us like to feel comfortable. But, is comfortable the place to be if you are a writer?

 I say no. Not with the publishing paradigm shift which allows anyone and everyone to become a published writer.

We have to be Purple cows. Different. Willing to stand out from the rest.Our stories need to be remarkable. Exceptional. After all, does the world need another ordinary writer, another ordinary story? I don’t think so.

Purple cow writers must be different at the same time consummate professionals. With the new reader-driven paradigm in publishing, we struggle to be noticed, to stand out in the pack. Often, we’re not traditionally published because our stories don’t fit the Big Six  genre boxes. Agents scratch their heads trying to pigeonhole our work. Which makes us half purple. To be a realio, trulio Purple Cow writer, we have to

  • create rich, absorbing stories  with emotional impact to grab the reader
  • know craft rules then break the ones that benefit our story
  • never stop learning
  • view every writing project as a stepping stone to something better
  • be devoted to KL’s social media theory for getting our name and our work noticed

What about you? Are you a PURPLE COW? Do you dare to step out of your comfort?


6 Comments on “It’s FRIDAY FREE DAY – Being a PURPLE COW writer

  1. I’d totally forgotten the Purple Cow poem until I read your blog. I think I’ve been a purple cow most of my life. Sometimes it wasn’t always comfortable, but I preferred it to being one of the sheep in a big herd.

  2. LOVED this post & the purple cow metaphor! I’ve been a purple cow my entire life, and not just in my writing. It’s ironic we spend the majority of our lives trying to fit in and be like everyone else, only to discover the things that make us truly beautiful are our differences.

    • Spot on, Elaine. It’s hard for introverts to overcome their mousey tendencies. Thanks for sitting a spell with me. Come again.

  3. Great blog! The 1895 art is extraordinary, and I can see how Burgess may have been the inspiration for Dr. Seuss. I also love Seth Godin’s book, “Purple Cow,” which is about transforming (upgrading) yourself, your work or your business by being remarkable. Writers who self-publish or go Indie have to be even more so…honing their craft, grammar, vocabulary, marketing and strategy to a fine caliber that stands out from the pack. Thanks for bringing this subject to our attention.

    • Yep…indie publishing definitely requires being better than all the others. You have to start with a great story and make sure the execution is flawless and purple cow unique. Thanks, for stopping by Jodi.

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