Interesting people seem to exist to make the rest of us look bad. The television shows us success; actors, writers, artists who are all succeeding at their chosen professions or at least make their life struggles look easy. We all have our problems, of course. But if you’re not ordinary or interesting, then you find yourself trapped between the two spaces without any sense of where you should go. If you’re not normal, have never fit in or connected with the majority of people around you, then surely by default you must be extraordinary?
Except, what if you’re abnormal and unremarkable at the same time? There’s a pressure, when you’re creative, to be tortured and brilliant at the same time; to have a poet’s soul, to see the world in a unique and innovative way that no one else has ever considered before. We’re assailed with these figures in both film and television; fictional and non-fictional accounts of artists who vibrantly explore life in short but colourful or long and illustrious lives both tainted by sadness. As a writer, I have often been encouraged to search for new ways to describe everyday things; clichés are pitfalls that are harder to avoid than you might think.
But I am not profound; the creative writing MA I took after my undergraduate degree taught me how to consider the reader as I write, which in a way is a good thing. Now, I think it was a bit too early for me to learn that. I’m still in the expressive phase, the ‘dump all the words on the page in a big emotional jumble’ phase, which is no bad thing. Trouble is finding the passion, the will, to actually do it.
Exceptional people leave the rest of us behind in black and white as they flourish in colour, or at least that’s how it can feel. Most people aren’t profound. How many of us were seized by an interest at a young age and carried that interest right through to adulthood? Obsession with literature, medicine, art or travel, can be strong enough to banish fear and push you into doing remarkable things; but I believe that obsession is a gift of circumstance or genetics. The rest of us must make do in this confusing, complicated and often frightening world. When I was younger, I wanted to be remarkable in some way. Who doesn’t? I was derisive of an ‘ordinary life’, who wanted to get a 9 to 5 job and be normal for their entire lives?
Now, I’m old enough to know that there are no small lives. We’re all muddling along, getting things wrong every day, making people laugh or thinking dark, petty thoughts about bad drivers we encounter or our own children misbehaving. Ordinary isn’t easy, but there are not and will never be any films about ordinary; they will always find something profound within routine and everyday lives that are expressed but never realistically represented on screen. I am an inconstant, uncommitted and for the moment uninspired human being, and I’m most likely not even close to being alone in that. When you feel that way, I suppose the best thing to do is to change something in your life, be it something large or small. Dye your hair, move to another place, or simply make a new routine, either way I don’t think it has to be as profound or extraordinary as the movies would have us believe.