“We must remember that everything is ordinary and extraordinary. It is our minds that open or close….Go so deep into something that you understand its interpenetration with all things. Then automatically the detail is imbued with the cosmic; they are interchangeable.”
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
“It is very deep to have a cup of tea.”
What is it about some writers that enables them to endow even the most seemingly mundane objects or actions with a luminous quality that imbues them “with the cosmic,” as Natalie puts it?
Virginia Woolf comes to mind here, with her amazing ability in Mrs. Dalloway to take an ordinary day and weave magic into it out of hope and heartbreak. I also think of Willa Cather, who to my mind has the gift of helping us see into the heart of things while writing about deceptively simple actions and objects. Then there’s Hemingway, who famously wrote that we should remember when writing that our words can only touch the tip of the iceberg — virtually everything happens below the surface of things.
Just recently, I saw a bag with these words emblazoned on it: “Creativity is maximized when we are fully alive to the present moment.” It can be fun and instructive to bring a sense of being in the moment to our writing. When we do, our creativity is unleashed and we can bring a freshness, a new worldliness, a new wordliness to whatever it is we’re describing. If we can do this, then as Natalie puts it so well, “…we can handle details not as individual, material objects alone but as reflections of everything.”
While it can be incredibly challenging to find the extraordinary in the ordinary and to give readers a glimpse into how they are connected, to my mind, this is one of the qualities that great writers bring to their work. Do you feel the same way? Which writers do you believe do this well? I’d love to hear from you. Write on!