For the 21st century writer, one of the greatest challenges is overcoming the perceived banality of life. It’s not that we lead unexciting existences, but rather, collective creative output outdoes itself more and more on a regular basis. Once upon a time, there was a love story, and it was exciting. Then it became a love murder-mystery, and the old love story was boring. Then it became the love murder-mystery action thriller, and the love murder-mystery became a cliché. Then it became the love murder-mystery action thriller where Bruce Willis is dead and Kevin Spacey is the mastermind behind it all, and the previous lack of twist endings became unexciting. Then giant blue people rode dinosaurs to foreign planets to wage war against all of our favorite comic book heroes from bygone eras, and we were enraptured once again. At least for the time being.
Yesterday it was released in high definition. Today, in 3D. Tomorrow, you’ll pay money to sit in a room with the very actors themselves playing the drama right before your eyes – that is the 3Diest thing possible. Aw snap! – you’re watching theater.
Are we jaded with dinosaurs and aliens yet? Can there be any other new and fresh ending to a new and fresh murder-mystery? Does the Titanic sink? Does the Confederacy lose the Civil War?
The biggest challenge for a writer today is to describe daily life as it really is and make people interested, but I believe this to be the writing of the future. We can no longer bail ourselves out of thematic monotony with special effects and plot twists. We are used to it all: end of the world stories, giant battles, grotesque relationships between two-dimensional characters, etc. Our personal interactions with our own unadulterated lives, though, I do not believe we are used to at all; we’re not acquainted enough with our deeper selves. It’s hard to make our lives interesting to other people, so we stop at the surface and then add explosions and hyperbole. But what about the plain daily truth? Can that be entertaining?
I attempted this in a recent entry: it was about a mishap during a road trip I took, and frankly, although I was personally excited by the experience, it’s boring. I prefaced the story by dwelling on the chaos of our lives and how bad decisions can lead us to irreversible disarray. That’s quite a grandiose way of introducing an otherwise trivial story about not getting a speeding ticket. Everyone who has ever driven has experienced stories such as this, and they are almost all entirely boring. There is no chaos of life in a speeding ticket. Chaos of life, as we see it in film and television, is when your wife cheats on you with your sister and then gets killed by your dad. Yet I’ll bet your heart starts racing the moment a traffic cop pulls behind you.
Liberal use of hyperbole is the enemy of personal-story writers. Somehow we are alienated from our deeper interior that allows us to consider our monotony exciting and enriching. Afraid of our lives being uninteresting, we exaggerate until there is barely a thread of truth in what we say. Our six hours of sleep last night become four hours of sleep because we don’t want to be outdone by the five-hour-sleep guy. Then, of course, there’s the one-hour-sleep asshole that can’t be beat. Suddenly, your six-hours of sleep, which can truly be considered sleep deprivation, is seen as a relatively full night of sleep, and your woe-is-me story nearly approaches bragging rights for the decadence.
How many more years of women lying about their weight will it take for the average weight of women to approach the value of zero? How many more years of men lying about their penis size will it take for the average length to equal that of one’s jeans?
Real life isn’t boring. It’s only boring compared to what we think is exciting, and while our lives seem uninteresting, the way we write about them doesn’t have to be. Taking out the trash can be a poetic experience. Crossing the street can be a breathtaking adventure. All it requires is introspection. Within everyone is a series of infinitely small universes waiting to be brought forth by those who have enough care to look and have enough eloquence to describe.