I studied history at university.
Most people think of history as big lists of dates and kings and revolutions and war. My favorite moments in studying history were when someone directed my attention to the tiny things that allowed me to see how people really lived, what they were really like, in the foreign country of the past: shopping lists for Venetian guilds that provided clues as to which festivals they took part in (and when); journals by minor figures aboard ship in the early years of the European exploration of the Americas; how the plays and literature of a period could tell us about everything from economics to gender politics…
Big things happen in our world every day. I listen to news radio dry-eyed all morning, and yet (every damned week) a three minute segment on Fridays makes me cry. It’s StoryCorps, a project in which ordinary people interview each other about things that have mattered in their lives. It ranges from personal testimonies about 9/11, to an old couple reminiscing about their courtship 50 years earlier.
Write a story rooted in the small moments of everyday life.
- Think of the things that give you pleasure: a beautifully prepared dish of tasty nutritious food; a warm bed; the moment the sun dips below the horizon; the sun shining on a cut lemon on your kitchen counter. Write a story rooted in, starting from, or ending at that moment.
- Read poetry that celebrates the mundane and relates it to bigger questions: for example, Birches, by Robert Frost or The Flea by John Donne. You don’t have to write poetry to make a small, everyday thing enough to power a whole story.
- Listen to a StoryCorps interview and use it as the basis for a story.
- Look around you right now. What can you see? What objects give you pleasure? Why? Imagine a character who gets similar pleasure from that object. Why? How can you make the story more universal? Focus on the tiny reasons for joy and write a story inspired by that.
Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.
7 thoughts on “May 26 – Joy In The Mundane”
yes, the mundane is where the best stories are! 🙂 but today, my mother cleaned up my desk, so i had to draw from what might be the most obvious place that anyone will notice mundane…!
Done. I’m all about mundane
I have no idea why, but I get an error message when I try to post in the victory dance. Is that happening to anyone else?
Sorry about that Danni. What error do you get?
My comment on the victory dance–not profound–went through just now, but for the past several days I’d get a pink box that said there’d been an error, try again later. Didn’t have any trouble on this part of the site, though. Thanks!
I’m not sure if mine is a story or an essay – it is pretty mundane and also pretty marvellous, if I may say so myself!
Nice, Martin 🙂
Very nice, Martin! I got quite caught up in it, your detail, being captivating. It’s interesting, because I was reminded of how I feel looking at a picture of myself as a baby, or a little girl of 5 or 6, and I have idea what I might have been thinking, or looking at… what captured my attention. I suspect that is somewhat like what you were saying, and the part about him not remembering when we because an older person.
I so appreciate the view through the microscope of from moments that will pass out of sight, out of mind and become the unknown.