I love this quotation, by author Mavis Gallant. I think of it often when I’m writing and wondering “Who is going to read this story? Why am I writing it?” I can never answer either of those questions—I don’t think any writer can—but I do believe, deep down, that what I’m doing is worth doing because all lives are interesting, all lives are equally important, and unique. This is such an obvious truth, yet much of our society denies it, through a combination of economic inequalities and the promotion of lifestyles that are far removed from the everyday lives most of us lead.
I was thinking a lot about all of this yesterday as I was getting ready to collect my son from school. The “school run,” as it’s termed in Britain, does indeed make me as if I’m on treadmill, going to the same place, at the same time, at the same pace, day on day, year on year. “I’m always there,” I thought, rather gloomily. Then I turned that idea on its head: I’m always there. My son will remember that, and it may well be something we both look back on as part of an interesting life. We talk, we take shortcuts that typically involve a lot of mud, we stop to look way off at the mountains, we get rained on and have to deal with being cold and, frankly, a tad miserable. I know it’s trite to talk about how kids make you slow down and notice the little things, which is funny, given that very young children, at least, have the effect of forcing you to rush about in search of matching shoes, etc. So, I’m not going to suggest that adopting a child-like attitude is the magical means to an interesting life. No, I’m saying that whatever we are by nature, whatever happens to us, whatever we choose to become, is inevitably unique. Having an interesting life is an unavoidable fact. Mavis Gallant knew this, just as she knew that the way you tell a story IS the story, and that is my very good reason for keeping her quotation in mind, when writing, when living.