Extraordinary in the Ordinary-IWSG

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs

Recently a writer friend commented on the ordinary setting of my non-fiction story, “An Easter Thank-you,” published in Easter Stories & More by Inscribe Press. The story took place in a Tim Horton’s donut shop. For Canadians, Tim Hortons has been a popular coffee shop since 1964, founded by Tim Horton who also played hockey for the Montreal NHL team. Some may feel differently, but I see Tim’s coffee as an ordinary every day type of coffee suited for the paper cups it is served in. I have many memories of moments at Tim’s or outside of Tim’s sipping on a Tim’s coffee.

Moments are made in the ordinary.

Stories, too, can be made in the ordinary. But sometimes my writing insecurities creep in when I read bios of authors who have travelled extensively, ate bannock with the Inuit in the North West Territories, or sat in prison cells ministering to the incarcerated. When I start comparing my life with others, I see myself as too boring and my life too mundane to write anything anyone would read. A prairie gal in Canada? What experiences do I have that anyone would really care about to read? What experiences do I have to draw from to create an interesting story?

I love this quote by Anne Lamott. (Actually, I just about love everything Anne writes.)

Life lurches and tramps around as we go about our ordinary days. We may wake to see a cat’s marble green eyes or to hear the dragging of garbage cans outside, or to smell our coffee brewing. Each of these tiny moments tell the story of ourselves, too. We have an affectionate (or annoying) cat. Our neighbours are so close we can hear them take out their garbage. And we like to pre-plan by setting the coffee maker the night before. Life, our stories, are in the details.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.”

Anne Lamott (2007). “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life”, p.12, Anchor

May you never, ever believe you have a too ordinary life to write.

Know that life and our stories are in the ordinary details that we, as writers, make extraordinary, as Anne Lamont says, by looking closely at life.

And if you ever are in my neighbourhood sometime, let’s grab a coffee at Tim’s so you can tell me your story.


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Thanks to our awesome co-hosts for the April 7 posting of the IWSG! PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton

A Prairie Breathing Space

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32 Comments

  1. I love this, and coincidentally have a post in drafts about possible missed opportunities. You’ve given me courage. I often make comparisons. So I will press publish when it’s finished. Thank you!💕

  2. Wise advice from Anne. At times, I think we all struggle with self-doubt. A favorite quote of mine is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
    Gorgeous photos, Lynn!

  3. That’s what reading and movies and shows and such do for us – help us travel the world for other experiences when we can’t go there. That helps us grow as a person no matter where we live.
    And I spent the first five years of my life living in Japan but I’ve never used any of what I remember in a story…

  4. That third photo is a stunner.

    I’ve traveled a lot and yet I feel as if I haven’t. Living in a small, Eastern NC town for over 25 years now really adds to that. But there are so many ways we can experience the world without traveling.

  5. I love this, Lynn. It’s a reminder I need often. Stories are created in the ordinary moments. I guess if we’re living the life God’s given us to live, that’s what makes us extraordinary…because He walks with us each moment.

    That’s a great Anne Lamott quote!

    And your photos, as always, are beautiful!

  6. What a wonderful post! Recently my daughter who is ten had asked me something similar. She said mom what if I want to write a story but don’t have an extraordinary moment to share, will anyone read my story? Well, I did give her some pearls but I think what you’ve written here sums it perfectly.

  7. I love your Anne Lamott quote. Sometimes I think what we view as ordinary is actually extraordinary when we take the time to look a little closer.

    And my ordinary could be someone else’s extraordinary. I remember a new friend who’d moved to the prairies from the east coast wondering why we were all making a big deal out of a lobster dinner. For her, lobster was what they had when they couldn’t get anything else to eat. Perspective. 🙂

  8. I love this post.
    While I write fantasies set in extraordinary worlds, the true stories lie with the characters and their interactions and motivations…those “ordinary” things we see every day.
    And your photography is gorgeous.

  9. I love everything by Anne Lamott too. Great quote! Some of the most compelling stories I have ever read come from an “ordinary” event. It’s how the writer handles the story that counts. Great post!

  10. I love Anne Lamott, too! Tim Hortons coffee will do in a pinch, but their pastries are to die for! I’ve driven to AK five or so times, and I always stop at the same Tim Hortons in Fort Nelson :). I’m also learning that my ordinary is someone else’s extraordinary. I have a ho-hum 3-bedroom rental that I share with my husband. I think it’s small and ordinary. My students (Native Americans), always oooh, and ahhh when they visit. Some of them grew up sleeping in the bathtub and sharing the house with three other families.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story about your students, Anita. It is all about perspective when we measure ordinary, isn’t it? Tim Horton’s specialty is their donuts! They’ve branched out but hopefully won’t distract from the pastries! I lived in the Yukon for a time, and drove the road that took us through Fort Nelson, too. Beautiful part of our country!

  11. “May you never, ever believe you have a too ordinary life to write.” Oh, this is good for me to hear, Lynn! I have especially felt so ordinary this past year, staying at home mainly, with little contact in “real life” with others. I love Anne Lamott too! She has a new book that I look forward to reading.

  12. “Each of these tiny moments tell the story of ourselves, too.” I love this important lesson, Lynn. And I love your prairie breathing spaces! They tell a story, too. 🙂 Love and blessings to you, my friend!

  13. Dear Lynn,
    Your beautiful writing and photography have always called me to look for the beauty around my ordinary days here. Thank you for breathing life into all of our own breathing spaces!

  14. Even as a retiree I struggle to pay attention to the lovely-yet-common things around me. A quote from my collection inspires: “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself”–Henry Miller. I need to put that on the refrigerator!