Monday, February 15, 2010

Tremendous Trifles: Inspiration for Writers

I discovered one of my favorite writers of all time, G.K. Chesterton, through reading some of my other favorite authors, such as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I noticed the writers I admired kept referring to this one fellow, so I just had to check him out.
Well, it was worth the modest effort it took to track him down, G.K. proved insightful, imaginative and above all entertaining. It turned out that not only had the man inspired other authors and journalists, but politicians and revolutionaries like Ghandi and Michael Collins.
But what's of particular interest to writers, particularly free-form bloggers like myself, is Chesterton's ability to look at an ordinary object and see the extraordinary about it. It is on this that a whole series of his newspaper columns was based. These columns were later collected into a book, aptly titled Tremendous Trifles, which was published in 1909.
Each short piece in the book describes one of Chesterton's many everyday adventures, from walking home in the rain to an exploration of the contents of his pockets, to finding a piece of chalk to sketch with. Chesterton imbues each of these small curiosities with some sort of mythic significance, making a grand hero's quest out of minor inconveniences, and cheerfully building literary mountains out of mundane molehills.
This ability to find the fascination in small things, and view the everyday from a fresh perspective is of great value to any writer, but is especially relevant in the nonstop chatter of the blogosphere, where everybody is looking for their niche. There are a million voices out there, of varying slants and skill levels, yammering away about politics, sports and celebrities, making it nearly impossible to get noticed. But on the other hand, if one can find a tiny corner of the web, something small and easy to overlook, but wonderful and interesting when presented in the right light, one might just be creating something that's really new and valuable.

You can find a digital copy of Tremendous Trifles here, or have it ordered at your local bookstore.

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