Life is tiny stretches of complete terror bookended by long stretches of unimaginable banality.
How does any facet of our lives make sense? We climb into cars we hate to drive to a place we distinctly don’t wish to be, then we come home after eight or nine hours to the place we really wanted to be the whole time only to go to bed so we can have the privilege of doing it all again tomorrow!
Where was the adventure I foresaw in my youth, where you would spend your days being a firefighter or jet pilot or Indiana Jones? Each dawning heralded twelve hours full of victory and each evening saw the exploits of the day turned into a triumphant lullaby upon which you would float to dreamland, Little Nemo-style.
This patina of the mundane doesn’t just coat our day-jobs.
When I started writing, I was convinced that I was engaging in something glamorous. The tortured artist, whiskey bottles spread about a room which speaks of a towering intellect lost to the world at large and consumed by the world within. I was certain that every single day would be exactly like one which started my journey, a meeting at a convention full of like-minded souls and the crackling energy of shared passion. Then, after the first year rolled into the second and crept into the third, I began to realize the truth: my first thoughts of writing were no different than the wistful dreams of life I had held close in my childhood.
Writing isn’t something you do for two hours a day in a breezy office after a round of golf, slowly sipping a martini and planning the exploits of the evening ahead. Writing is freaking trench warfare, where you’re huddled into a bunker while your mind blasts away at itself trying to rob you of whatever sanity you have left. You’re typing furiously as the grenades explode overhead, and most of your time is spent wondering why the heck you thought this was a good idea in the first place.
Life and writing are a lot alike in that respect: They are tasks you do every day with little to no fanfare and even less applause. Each word is another salvo successfully weathered in your eternal internal war; each time you turn the keys and head to work is another bead to slide across the rope. They’re the little victories that each of us savor so that we can keep moving forward.
I have come to the realization that having an understanding of the endless grind of days is vital to being a good author.
The longer I stay in that trench and keep writing despite all the internal bombardments, the more that I step into my car and don’t step back out of it, the more I understand the truth of what I am experiencing.
The mundane is the thread which ties us together.
It is the singular suffering that all of us can understand. Think of it: How many of you know exactly what I am talking about when it comes to weathering the endless onslaught of days so similar the dates are the only thing letting you tell them apart?
How many weeks has your only solace the sweet moment of joy which occurs at 4:59 PM on Friday? How many of rush from our various dungeons with the whole world laid bare before us, ripe for the conquering? Who hasn’t struggled with the very real desire to tell their boss exactly where they can put that report, thank you very much?
The time that I am required to run my own race in the hamster wheel is the most precious gift I could ever be given.
Writing is a task which requires us to channel life into our characters. Yet we cannot cut corners in depicting the lives we weave. It’s part of why research is the backbone of good writing: if you don’t put in the effort, readers will notice.
What I’m doing now in the gray-mists of the Everyday is the most wonderful research imaginable.
Now and forever, when I go to write a character, I can craft them with exacting care and knowledge. I can channel all of my hard-earned wisdom into the clockwork automatons of my imagination, smoothing the edges and sculpting the face until it becomes a person instead of a collection of words.
When it comes time to wind the gears, I can do so secure in the knowledge that I have at last figured out the secret to what makes them tick. You see, when a reader looks upon my works, they shall not see my face upon the automaton; they shall see their own.
I shall fill each character I craft with all that I have learned and loved and lost in the slow grind of years, and in so doing I shall breathe life into the passages and paragraphs which are the cogs of my darlings, and they shall move as any man or woman would;
For it is the blood of my daily toil which is the grease that animates them.
The Unsheathed Quill