Making the Everyday Extraordinary

Disclaimer: this is one person’s opinion, and is not intended to offend anyone.

In art, there is little that is considered cliché. Drawing on past artists’ work is expected and celebrated, and using well-known objects for their connotations is common and generally received well. To be fair, this has not always been the case. Art is still divided into craft, kitsch, fine, indigenous, etc, and pop art images of soup cans had to fight their way into the world of fine art. However, in writing the line between “earning the cliché” and sounding cheesy can be much more difficult to identify. There are published writers, and there are unpublished writers. There is work that is ready and work that needs… Well, needs work. Using clichés is almost a guarantee that you will be considered as the latter: the unprepared, unpublished author. How do we reclaim these clichés? Own them and weave them, earn them, in our work? Essentially, how can we make the everyday language and stories exceptional?

Again, I return to art, where changing the surroundings, scale, or level of distortion can draw attention to and celebrate the everyday. However, simply placing a cliché in a new context is often not enough to make a piece of writing acceptable. Scale, though different here, can help though. Make your writing a soundscape. In the words of Gabe Lewis (for you Office fans), “imagine one instant of a song, expanded to be the size of the universe.” Imagine the minutiae of your cliché and make them important. Take your cliché and dig so far into that person or that feeling that your audience feels and sees what you feel when you hear that cliché. Details, bodily sensations, imagery. When I see successful use of clichés, the line seems like an inevitable following to a superb description of that cliché; it serves as the bow on an already beautifully wrapped gift.

I am sure there are many other ways to make successful writing with clichés, but this is a short description of an important frame of mind I believe can lead to such a success. So this blog can serve as a challenge to you. Show us how you can take clichés and common subject matter and make them important, relevant, and new!

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