The world is full of writers. Many, perhaps most, don’t call themselves writers. They call themselves real estate agents or investors or cashiers or teachers or inventors or doctors or engineers or small business owners. But if you ask them to provide a list of all the activities they complete every day—just for their “work”—almost every one of them would list “writing” high up on the list of both most important and most time-consuming tasks.
We could, of course, draw a distinction between writing as a profession and writing in your profession. That is a helpful distinction in many cases. Am I paid for what I write? Or am I paid for what the writing accomplishes? If the former, well, clearly I’m a “writer” by any definition; if the latter, I might be just about anything other than a writer according to the title on my business card. And if I’m at a party and someone asks that charmed ice-breaker “what do you do?”—which we all understand means “what line of work are you in?”—would it be helpful for me to say “I’m a writer,” when I’m actually in the line of work known as “landscaping”?
Even the way I framed the questions am I paid for what I write or for what my writing accomplishes doesn’t really capture the distinction, and it begs not just one question but several. The primary question it begs, however, is whether a person we would all call a writer and who would call himself a writer is actually paid for what he writes or if, in fact, he is also paid for what his writing accomplishes.
Isn’t it true that a novelist must write words that, in combination, affect the emotions of the reader in such a way and to such an extent that they are moved beyond what they might have been moved by other stories they might have read so that they feel compelled to tell others about this amazing story they’ve just read and which, they feel, must now be read by others? (For best results, the reader at some point would, hopefully, be a writer whose job it is to accomplish the recommendation of books to a wide audience through the vehicle of a newspaper or magazine or broadcast.)
Isn’t it also true that the book critic mentioned above is a writer whose job it is to affect readers by discussing the qualities of a book and recommending that it be read or not read, and to, hopefully, recommend consistently and thoughtfully so that the number of readers increases because they come to trust the recommendations of the critic, so that we would have to say that the book critic is a writer of the second type—one who writes in his profession?
By now you may be asking whether this “Everyday Writing” series is really for you or whether it’s just a set of esoteric thinkpieces of semantics no one cares about. My answer to that question—if you were to ask it—would be threefold. First, I would comment that you chose to read an article titled “Everyday Writing: Introduction to the Craft of Writing,” so what did you expect? Second, I would comment that you chose to read an article titled “Everyday Writing: Introduction to the Craft of Writing,” so there must be a part of you that feels there is a question about your own place in the writing spectrum—perhaps even your own place in the world—that might be answered or at least informed by such an article. Third—and much more seriously—I would comment that this question of who we are—and accordingly, what we call ourselves—is a very old one, and it is one that needs answering.
In addition—and equally serious as the last point—I would comment that this series of articles is intended as a practical, whimsical, and fun—if also reflective—commentary on everyday writing. If it takes itself too seriously at points, I beg your pardon in advance; some seriousness is essential, because the topic of everyday writing is serious. If all of life could be whimsical and fun, then we would already be in the afterlife paradise, sitting in the light of the eternal sun, basking in all his glory, enjoying whimsy so great that it would blow our tiny feeble minds, the sort of whimsy that is beyond even our wildest whimsical imaginings and which he alone could invent. (Have you seen a platypus?) But we’re not there yet—even if we want to be, and even if we ought to be enjoying this life with as much of his sort of whimsy as we can muster.
In the meantime, what we have is the mundane, the everyday—literally, every day. And it’s only in our pursuit of contentment, happiness, and joy in the everyday that we can truly become more than just everyday people.
Some advise us to “live in the moment,” and it is often good advice. We are too prone—myself very much included—to live in the grandiose future of our dreams, rather than dig in the dirt of the present reality in which we find ourselves. (Cue a reference to Thomas Edison and his comment that genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.)
This advice to “live in the moment” doesn’t capture the fullness of the problem, though. In reality, living in the moment is the only possible way to live. It’s an aphorism that fulfills itself in the telling. The advice is good because it encourages us to acknowledge that we can only live moment by moment; there is no other way. Moment succeeds moment, day after day, each after each in the very same way.
But the advice falls short because to live in the moment without a thought for the future is foolish. We see this in the daily cycle of nature. The sun rises; the sun sets. We all know it. And we know that we must rise up to work and lie down to sleep. We know that we must proceed from the start of our day to the end of it with the knowledge that we must prepare ourselves while we are awake for that time of the day when we will lie down again for sleep. That’s a long sentence. Its idea is captured much more simply in one of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people: “Begin with the end in mind.” Live in the moment—with an eye for the future.
The best way to live in each moment is to adopt the practice of what I call glorying in the mundane. To glory in the mundane is to enjoy the everyday parts of life and to savor the beauty, the grace, the richness—in short, the glory—of each mundane moment of each (and every) day.
So what is the point of everyday writing? Am I trying to tell you how to make tons of money by writing everyday? I am most definitely not telling you how to make lots of money (by writing or otherwise). Write Yourself Rich is a great title and someday someone ought to write that book if it isn’t already written. (In fact, hmm . . . I think this is where I insert a disclaimer that “‘Write Yourself Rich’ is a trademark of Courtney A. Huntington, Inc.“) But, no, I am most definitely not telling you how to make lots of money.
What I am hoping I can do is this: to help you enjoy the life you have more fully, regardless of what your future holds. And that is the value of glorying in the mundane. When we glory in the mundane, we get to enjoy more fully the divine whimsy on display in all of creation. We get to relish les petits détails of each flower or cloud or sunset. And we get to revel in the grandeur of the whole. The mundane—though the term is usually used as an insult—is quite grand when you consider it in its fullness. Has any man ever seen every inch of this great world, this grand monde—this glorious mundanity—on which we live? No, and no man ever can. We can live only in one place at one time, see only one vista, enjoy only one moment. Everyday writing is about writing our own stories, glorying in the mundane, enjoying the everyday.
For this series, Everyday Writing, we are partnering with our sister sites WriteGoods.com and RealManners.Work to assemble not just a series of articles to be mentally considered, but also a series of steps to be physically completed, so that, together, we can more fully enjoy the everyday and glory in the mundane.