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The Writing Challenges of an Uneventful Life

July 27, 2016
What should I write about? What should I write about? (image via wikimedia)

What should I write about? What should I write about? (image via wikimedia)

“My life is too boring to write about,” my oldest daughter said.

I knew what she meant.  Compared to other people, my family and I probably lead boring lives.  We stay at home most of the time.  We don’t travel much.  I have a monotone voice, so even when I do something exciting, it sounds boring, ( but that trait hasn’t been passed on to my kids).

To compensate for our boring lives, my daughter has a wonderful imagination and can make things up.  A couple years ago, I caught her lying in a memoir that she had written for a class assignment.  She had created a fictional brother and then killed him off, and her memoir was about the feelings of loss she had experienced.  It made her teacher cry.  It would have made me cry too, but I knew it was a load of crap.

Every year, my daughter’s school has a memoir/personal narrative writing contest, and she has come in second both years.  She probably would have come in first place a couple years ago, but I had told her to write a true story and not use the tale of her fictional dead brother.  Instead of a story of tragic loss, she wrote a narrative about  overcoming her fears, and the story came in second.  Last year, she wrote another humorous story that came in second as well.

I think coming in second twice is a pretty noteworthy accomplishment, but my daughter wants to win.  Next year is her last year at this school, and she knows this is her last chance (though there will be other writing contests at other schools).  I have confidence in her writing abilities, but if the wrong family member of a talented competing writer has something tragic happen, my daughter might not stand a chance.

“It’s not fair,” my daughter complained.

Then she corrected herself.  “You know what I mean.”

I allow my daughters to use the sentence “You know what I mean” to get themselves out of bad situations caused by poor phrasing.  They can’t stop with “You know what I mean.”  They have to find better ways to express the thought that wasn’t as bad as what they originally said.

“I don’t want anybody to die!” my daughter said.  “But I want to win the contest.”

I kept silent.

She paused.  “So…” my daughter said, “Can I just lie?”

“I don’t know,” I finally said.  “Can you?”

She rolled her eyes.  “May I lie?”

“You probably shouldn’t if the story is supposed to be true.” I said.  “But you can embellish.”

Writers have to embellish, I explained.  Most people have boring lives most of the time, so it’s okay for a writer to focus on the mundane and try to make it interesting.  It takes talent to write about the mundane.  Even reality shows focus on the mundane most of the time.  If you take away the fancy editing and background music, reality shows are filled with boring stuff.

My daughter will have to figure out how to compensate for the lack of tragedy in her life.  That’s what successful people do; they compensate for their disadvantages.  My daughter is smart.  I was confident she would figure something out.  She might not win the contest (school hasn’t even started yet), but she will come up with a good strategy.

It didn’t take long.  A few hours later, my daughter burst into the living room.

“I know what I’m going to write about,” she said with a smirk.

I asked her what her topic was, and she wouldn’t tell me.

“I’ll let you read it when I’m done,” she said.

“When will that be?”

“In about three months.”

Normally, I’m all for keeping a writing project to myself until it’s done, but in this case, I think I deserve a bit more information.  After all, I helped her talk out her problem (I think).  I should be able to know what her solution was.  Now I have to wait three months.  I’m looking forward to reading whatever it was she came up with, but I don’t think it’s fair that I have to wait until she’s done.  At least she won’t wait until the last minute.  I’m glad she thinks she has this figured out.

Now that she has her idea, the school will probably change the rules and mess it all up.

*****

If you’ve ever had a tough time deciding what to write, you might enjoy this ebook .

13 Comments
  1. Ahaha, a “boring” life can be one of the most enjoyable :). I’m excited to hear about what your daughter chooses to write on!

  2. “It takes talent to write about the mundane.” And guts, too!

    Love your words here.

  3. I’m so relieved you lead a boring life too and are still a great writer – that gives me hope! Work conversations are always the same for me.
    Colleague: ‘What did you do at the weekend?’
    Me: ‘Stayed home, did some gardening, watched some films. How about you?’
    Colleague: ‘It was brilliant. We went to France – we always go there to snowboard / water ski / camp / tread grapes / commune with the crickets of Provence. Had a mad fling with a one legged sky diver then home for work on Monday.’
    Me: Smiling, silently seething.
    I love your daughter’s imagination. I would never have considered inventing and killing a sibling for an assignment. Never been good at lying outside of my fiction 🙂 Be fascinating to find out what her idea is.

  4. Of course writers can lie. But why must it be negative or sensational? I guess because people like it that way.

  5. I’m not sure why your daughter is so attached to the idea of a close relative’s death as the surest path to victory, but if I were you, I’d be extremely careful for the next three months.

  6. soakinscott permalink

    Literally laughed out loud with “I knew it was a bunch of crap.”

    Well done!

  7. I feel your daughter’s pain. I blame my parents all the time for this. They were boring and happy and…white. How am I supposed to write about that?!

    This also came to mind. This past school year I took one of my students to a speech competition. She made it to the final three. Her speech was great, but the other speeches presented were these horrific sob stories. My student came in third, not because her speech wasn’t as good but because her life wasn’t as horrible. I had to convince her not to feel bad about having a pretty normal life. People love sob stories…

    • A speech competition? If a kid doesn’t dry heave in that situation, then he/she is ahead of 99% of the population.

      Finishing in the top three of anything is pretty incredible (especially if you don’t have to rely on a horrific sob story to get there).

  8. I’m really enjoying this series! Very nice 🙂

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