My new favourite author, Michael Perry*, has a theory about making it as a writer. It is, he says, like shovelling horse manure. If you keep at it long enough, sooner or later you’ll have a pile so big that people can’t ignore it any more.
In my writing, as in life more generally, I have a tendency to forget this. I seem always to be aiming for the one big idea. The thing that will bring everything together. A towering monument to my own accomplishment.
This is, sadly, just as unlikely as it is pompous.
Because life is not about big things. Rather, it is about a gradual accumulation of little things. The slow and steady weaving of individual strands into a delicate yet substantial and enduring whole.
Take friendship, for example. It doesn’t just happen. It grows over time as a result of a thousand tiny interactions, each of which reinforces the others. And love. Love is not one grand gesture of adoration, but a lifetime of fleeting moments of tenderness and affection.
And so we must look beyond the big to see the small.
The myriad of thoughts, actions, relationships and experiences that make up a human life. Because it is these things that give us something worth writing about. And it is these things that make us who we are.
* If you’ve not come across Michael Perry, do get hold of one of his books. He lives and writes in rural Wisconsin, USA, and is a sort of cross between Bill Bryson, Robert Macfarlane and the cast of Duck Dynasty. I can recommend ‘Population: 485 – Meeting your neighbours one siren at a time’ as a great place to start.