Art in the Everyday

Storm clouds are in the background and a suburban row of homes is below them. The post title, 'Art in the Everyday' is superimposed on the photo.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I was looking for a movie to watch and stumbled across “Paterson” on Amazon Prime Video (free to Prime customers).

The description of the movie reads:
Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, he writes poetry into a notebook; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer; he goes home to his wife, Laura. By contrast, Laura’s world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily. The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.

It was, I think, the quietest movie I’ve ever watched. Because of its R rating, I kept expecting some sort of horribly violent or upsetting incident to take the film in another direction.  But there was nothing violent or especially upsetting (except, well, maybe for writers. I won’t give any spoilers here).  I discovered later that the R rating was because of language, although I didn’t even remember or notice bad language–a sign that it must have been slipped in very naturally.

Although I’m not a poet (at least not a good one), I loved the way that poetry was woven into the everyday (repetitive, routine, and rather boring lives) of the main characters.  I’m a subscriber to Poet.Org’s Poem-A-Day newsletter, which sends me a poem to read each day (frequently accompanied by the poet’s thoughts on the poem and a bit of bio).  As critic Kate Taylor wrote for The Globe and Mail: “Everyone, it appears, is capable of art.” And: “…The sameness of it all only serves to underline that the creative act belongs to all of us every day.”

As someone who creates (almost) every day, the movie resonated with me in a way that was maybe unintended: as a catalyst to get out of my own head and into the world a little more–a world that can provide unexpected inspiration for artists of all kinds.

One thing that I’ve always loved about the writing life is the way that it allows me to look at life through a lens: that it allows me a certain distance from the world.  And being observant helps feed my writing.

But I could use some help by expanding my observations and finding art in the everyday in settings other than my house.

On my list for finding art in the everyday (which I probably used to do a lot more than I have lately…and now may be a good time to replenish the creative well):

Get out of the house. This is a big one.  As my children have gotten older (my younger child is about to be able to drive on her own now), I’ve had to go out less. Maybe now I should choose to go out more. That could just be a library or a coffeehouse.

Sit where I can observe people.  And, usually, this involves a bit of listening in. People can be fascinating, and so can their dialogue.

Be prepared to list observations, note characters and traits.  I’ve gotten pretty good at surreptitious photography, too, for my character files.

Take a walk.  Sometimes inspiration or the poetry in the everyday doesn’t have to come from other people. It might come from the world around us, especially if we take the time to observe it closely.

Read more to experience more.  Reading is another way of experiencing the world and seeing how others find art in the everyday.  Reading more is something that I’ve challenged myself to do in 2017. So far, it’s worked out well.

Read different kinds of books.  Another challenge.  It gives me much more of a range of ‘experiences.’

Do you find inspiration in the art of the everyday? Get out of the house much?  Have you seen the film “Paterson?”

Seeking Out Art in the Everyday: Click To Tweet

Photo credit: mccun934 via / CC BY


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15 thoughts on “Art in the Everyday

  1. Inspiring blog. I occasionally take pictures of people in secret who I think might be good characters for my cozies. I force myself out of the house a few times a week during the day. I usually end up at a thrift shop or antique store searching for buried treasure. Sometimes the conversations I overhear are humorous. Oftentimes, they are a little depressing. When I hear others talking about illness or money troubles or hard times, it reminds me to be thankful for the life I lead. Still, these stories some times make it into the books.

    1. Maybe cozy writers find special value in folders of photos of quirky people. :)

      I know what you mean about the conversations we overhear. I can sometimes use it for fodder for my books, but sometimes it’s too dark for cozies.

  2. I get out of the house but it’s usually to the same places – work, gym, church, store. Although I do go for lots of walks. I need to start noting what I see more often.

  3. I like that idea very much, Elizabeth! I think once we get out of our own tendency to ‘tunnel in,’ we find a lot of art and beauty just by being attentive. And if you ask me, that helps writing, too.

  4. I don’t get out as much as I should. While I carry a notebook, it seems that when I spot interesting things I want to be sure and remember, my hands are full, or I’m walking, or talking to someone. Need to figure out how to change that.

    1. If I were distracted (i.e., talking to someone), I don’t think an interesting tidbit would even cross my consciousness, ha!

      Maybe a phone? If you carry one in your hand, that is (I do, because women’s pockets are ridiculously small and my large phone won’t fit in…)

  5. I love poetry. You know, it was incredibly inspiring just to sit on the subway while living in NYC and watch the people who came and left. To imagine their stories. To wonder at the intricacies of their lives. It’s not wonder writers tend to be some of the most compassionate people out there, eh?

  6. Hi Elizabeth – thanks for the poetry link … I’ve signed up. While the film Paterson sounds fascinating … I’ll have to look into seeing – or at least remembering it for another time.

    Yes – noticing people … I do – but it’s usually the history that grips me … perhaps I should think of characters too – yet I suspect I won’t be writing a novel as such.

    Thanks for this a very interesting read … cheers Hilary

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