“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

Why You Should Write about the Everyday

Some people think writing about everyday occurrences is uninteresting. But I like to believe that the everyday is what connects writers with readers, as human beings who share a common or not-so-common world.

What is it about the everyday—the small details, the routines and rituals—that resonates so deeply?

kitchen table

Photo by Kate Hiscock

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Everyone has an “everyday” perspective.

We don’t have to go on a fabulous and exotic trip. We don’t have to endure a major life change or crisis. The everyday, by definition, exists in each of our lives, and it provides endless fodder for our writing. We could describe something that happens every day or once in a while—or we could write about something that happens only once but is an extremely ordinary or common experience.

The everyday grounds readers who can identify and understand your world.

Writing about everyday things builds connections with readers. They are able to imagine what you’re describing, perhaps even place themselves into the scene, because they too have experienced that moment in some way. Relating to the story pulls them in and creates emotion, ties in memories, and enriches the imagery.

What’s everyday in one person’s life may be completely foreign to someone else’s.

On the other hand, each of us lives a different life and has a unique background and perspective. Something that seems everyday to you may be even more interesting to others because it’s nothing like what they experience. The places you go, the food you eat, the people you interact with could very well stand in total contrast to another person’s lifestyle.

Writing about the everyday in a fresh way is a wonderful challenge.

Because everyday moments happen often or are common to many, it’s not always easy to write about them in a fresh way. We often have to look closely to see the true beauty that exists around us, those constants we sometimes take for granted, and then work hard to elevate them in our writing. Choosing to write about the everyday requires a filter. We must ask ourselves: what’s most meaningful? How does this moment or object contribute to the story? And how can I describe it in a way that is both familiar and totally new?

How do you write about the everyday? How do you make it captivating?

PRACTICE

Write about an everyday moment, ritual, or object for fifteen minutes.

When you’re finished, please share your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please respond to some of the other comments too!

About Melissa Tydell

Melissa Tydell is a freelance writer, content consultant, and blogger who enjoys sharing her love of the written word with others. You can connect with Melissa through her website, blog, or Twitter.

  • I suppose I write about the everyday objects, the everyday happenings with the thought in mind that the mundane doesn’t exist. Common things aren’t common, they’re simply familiar. What is familiar becomes mundane because we leave off seeing with eyes that really see.

    I try to see with new eyes, with eyes of a co-creator who relishes in what has been made.

    • “The mundane doesn’t exist”: love that perspective!

      • Yes, I second that… we writers have to make the effort to really see.

    • Winnie

      Somebody said the task of a writer is to see everything with new eyes.

  • Eileen

    Great post. I love writing about the everyday. There are so many lessons tucked away in the so called “ordinary” I find that’s one of the beautiful things about life. We just have to slow down and keep our eyes open to it!

  • Compelling points! I think the questions you ask at the end are terrific filters to make the story of your everyday really interesting to someone else, as opposed to just another post about how much I love my family, my coffee, or my pets. 🙂

    Prior to reading this, I had written a story of an everyday morning gone awry and the fears I had to face because of the temporary new normal. Humor is a great tool, especially to change the mundane and yet sometimes fear-inducing, into something with which everyone can relate and hopefully gain courage.

    If you’d like to read it, you can find it on my blog: http://www.toodarnhappy.com/bearly-fearless/

  • Steve Stretton

    For those that don’t know it, the kenken puzzle is a number puzzle based on a grid, usually four by four or six by six squares. The clues are the results of simple arithmetic operations within smaller blocks of squares within the main puzzle. The challenge is not to repeat any one digit within a single row or column. Each row and column comprises the digits one to four in the four by four grid and the digits one to six in the six by six grid. I do this puzzle at my favourite haunt, the Moravia Cafe. The four by four puzzle I can do in my head, but I have to write out the clues in the six by six grid. And here’s the rub, I feel a little antisocial because I use the cafe’s paper, not my own. So I feel this great pressure not to get it wrong. The anxiety as I start the puzzle is enormous, can I get it out, can I avoid mistakes, in short, can I do it properly? If I do, I feel great relief and a small satisfaction. If I muck it up, I slink away feeling guilty at having ruined someone else’s enjoyment. Thus I make a simple pastime a major part of my emotional life. I can only hope the other patrons will forgive my mistakes and not mind too much that I have done what I have done. I tell myself there are other papers to read if they don’t like my efforts. But I do like my guilty little pleasure, especially when I get it out clean.

    • AH Roberts

      I don’t do puzzles but I totally understand about turning something simple into something I assign much bigger consequences to.

    • Winnie

      Great piece. Doesn’t everyone have a ‘guily pleasue”? Mine are drinking a cup of coffee – there’s a ritual around it – walking in the park.

  • This post about “everyday things” comes along just as I’m writing about “everyday minds” — which I see as the box within which we live day to day, but from which we instinctively aspire to escape. I see stories as the protagonist’s journey from the everyday mind — through her struggles and crises — to a larger worldview. I’m pretty sure that’s why we read fiction. We all want to transcend the limited perspective of the “everyday”… simply because it’s possible. What say ye?

    • Winnie

      Agree. And we’re not only limited to this world.

  • Margaret Terry

    Last week at the grocery store, I was perusing
    the fresh fish and caught something out of the corner of my eye that
    looked like it was falling from the ceiling. It was a bird. A small
    brown wren flapped and fluttered in front of me and perched
    on the handle of my grocery cart. He tilted his head, looked at me and
    chirped which made me laugh out loud. A woman with a cart piled sky
    high with food drew near and I said “Look! There’s a bird in the store!”
    She shrugged and kept going as though I had said “Look, there’s cheese
    in the store.” A man approached the counter beside me and I tried
    sharing this tiny wonder with him. “Look, look – a bird is in here!” He
    lifted his chin to peer over my pile of groceries then turned to the
    employee behind the counter and said “I want a pound of black forest
    ham, sliced not shaved.” My little wren lifted his wings and circled
    before he lighted on the edge of the glass counter. I thanked him for
    picking me to visit and prayed I would always be someone who gets
    excited about a bird in a grocery store…

    • eva rose

      What a delightful moment! How many do we miss within each day or totally ignore? “I thanked him for picking me to visit..” Love that thought.

      • thanks for your comment. It’s so fun to revisit that moment thru your eyes here!

    • Bookmark

      Great story about how we look at things. The bird selected you because you saw the beauty of the moment. Loved it.

    • catmorrell

      I feel sorry for those who ignore the birds. There was a cluster of us in the nutrition department watching a small bird clean up the spills from the bins. We all had smiles, but not the frowners who hurried by thinking about the mess instead of the bird. There is beauty in the flaws. Thank you for sharing.

    • AH Roberts

      What a lovely moment to share. Well written. Thanks.

    • Paul Owen

      Wish I’d been there with you! Now I want a wren to accompany me the next time I’m shopping. Great story, Margaret – thanks for sharing

      • Me too, Paul. I looked for him this week but I think he moved into the bakery 🙂

    • The first time I saw a bird in Walmart, I heard it before I saw it, I jumped up and down like a little kid. Quickly I stopped and worried about what he would eat. I looked for an employee to make sure they were aware of their visitor’s needs. He assured me the birds came in and out through the garden center. I don’t know if he was patronizing me or not but I felt better. Thanks for sharing your bird moment!

      • I was the same. It brought out the little girl in me. I ended up worried like you about the poor thing and what it would drink so asked the fish manager who told me the year before, a wren was bathing in the lobster tank…

        • I am thinking I need to consider some of the data you have in this article.

    • Yeah, I feel sorry for them, too. When my parents and I went to a camp one year – I must have been 8 or so – there was a sparrow that I fed off the palm of my hand. I had to stand still for what seemed to me to be days before he would stand on my fingers and peck at the seed I held. I won’t ever forget that.

      And have you noticed that the Walmart signs now have filled in letters to keep the birds from making nests? Wouldn’t want to dirty the signage…

      • there is a wooded area in my town where I go with my kids to feed the chickadees – they perch on our open palms and feel like a whisper, they are so light…

  • Eva Rose

    About 3:30-4 p.m. every day it’s time for the “Cheese Board”. Out comes the favorite plate and we slice our favorite cheeses into little squares. Dubliner Cheese, Monterey Jack, Sharp Cheddar and Asiago line up on one side of the plate in neat columns. The other half of the plate holds an assortment of crackers: wheat, saltines, rye crisps. Tucked between the two sides are thin slices of apple and a few freshly washed grapes. With a deep sigh, the TV goes to Mute and we turn to look at each other.
    The ritual has less connection with hunger and more to pause from the endless daily chores and the whirling rotations of the restless mind. “How are you today?”
    Thirty minutes to breathe, to listen, to smile, to reconnect. Would you care for some cheese?

    • I LOVE this ritual – and I love cheese! If you were my neighbor, I might be knocking on your door every day at 3:30 🙂

    • Bookmark

      More than a ritual, it seems that you are establishing a tradition. It’s a great one and may you enjoy it for many years to come.

  • Bookmark

    What a treat to wake up everyday when my body has decided it has had enough rest. Throwing the alarm clock out the window with retirement was a long desired action. The only people who pop out of bed, live in toasters, not me. Take a minute to look around the room, locate the cats who sleep in various places during the night and decide if now is the time to get up.

    Feet on the floor, reach for the eyes (glasses) and then reach for the ears (aides). All together now, leave the bed.

    The first order of business is a cup of coffee. AH, the healing powers of coffee! Activate the computer, see who wants to communicate with me. Read the letters to the Editor and prepare my rebuttals. This is one of my favorite parts of every day. Wait for the people who disagree to post their replies and my ‘go get them’ impulses take over.

    Good morning, Honey. It’s so nice to see him come into the room. Spending the night next to him is never enough. His presence all day is what really makes my day. As has become the custom, fix toast for both of us. A light breakfast seems to work for us.

    The hard part of the day is deciding what we will eat for our main meal. The same question grinds on both of our nerves but it is a necessary inquiry. “What do you feel like eating today?” Some days the question doesn’t get asked and we dine on the cooks choice.

    What to do today? Since we had a little bit of rain, the weeds are growing. Having no carpet grass doesn’t negate the need for mowing. Naw, it can wait for another day. Prognostication has a high priority in this house. The bank statement can wait until tomorrow.

    Well, look at the time! Where did the day go? Another perfect day of having each others companionship, no serious illness, the ailments that come with age were no worse today than they were yesterday.. What might be considered boring to observers is actually a wonderful life! Long may it exist.

    • Bookmark

      How embarrassing. I thought i had typed procrastination and ended up with prognostication. Is there an edit feature on this site?

      • catmorrell

        Morning rituals are bliss. Thank you for sharing. I sit down to the computer and put on meditation music, while I wait for the joints and brain to wake. Thank you for sharing yours and the love. I too have not figured how to edit.

    • Bookmark

      I could write a book about carefully proof reading what one writes before submitting it. I thought i had written procrastination and not prognostication. Where is the edit feature on this site because i desperately need one.

    • Paul Owen

      The healing powers of coffee – YES! I like the combination of popping out of bed and toasters. Great reading, Bookmark

    • Steve Stretton

      I like this, it’s a great celebration of an ‘ordinary’ life. Long may it continue.

  • catmorrell

    “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Confucius’ quote bobbled around in Annabeth’s mind as she surveyed the mess on the floor boards. She tried to brush all the dull dark sand from her body before crawling into the backseat with her youngest brother. But the evidence quickly sifted from her skirt into a black and silver puddle onto the floor beneath her feet.

    Charles’ side looked just as sandy as hers. He scooped a few grains into his hand and held it close to his eyes. “Bethie, did you know sand is little tiny rocks all different colors? It only looks grey.”

    Annabeth smiled at her inquisitive sibling. “Most of it is volcanic rock that has washed down the Columbia river from the Mt. St.Helens eruptions. From what I read other beaches are different colors. Some beaches are white.” She scooped sand from the floor boards too. “I wonder if the sparkly sand could be diamonds from Africa.”

    She mused about the quote again and wondered if Confucius meant to enjoy the beauty in the moment instead of worrying about the mess.

    • Paul Owen

      You turned an ordinary moment into magic, Cat. Nicely done

      • catmorrell

        Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Lovely. I live near white sand beaches, which I love. My children drop the powder all over our car like sprinkled sugar. The conversation you relayed sounds like something my son would say to us!

      • catmorrell

        Thank you. I loved what you wrote about “sprinkled sugar” too. One day I will see a white sand beach.

    • Bookmark

      This is a wonderful story about turning an ordinary mess into a magical moment I loved it.

      • catmorrell

        Thank you. The encouragement helps me keep moving forward..

  • Paul Owen

    My weekdays usually start something like this:

    The alarm goes off well before sunrise. I flip over and shut it off, then get out of bed. Something between a hop and a stumble. Sneaking out of the bedroom while my wife sleeps, I flip on the water pot then settle into my leather chair. My favorite websites call to me but I have other plans. I’m writing 750, maybe 1000 words of something. Could be free writing, could be something for my next blog post, could be a scene from the story I’m drafting, but it’s something.

    Now the water is boiling, so I walk into the kitchen and set up the coffee press. I peck away on the laptop until the stove timer says my coffee is ready. Back in the chair, I continue typing whatever-it-is while caffeine gets in my head. The house is delightfully quiet with everyone else still asleep; it’s just me, my thoughts, and maybe some music to accompany keystrokes.

    Too soon my writing time and coffee are finished. Time to get cleaned up and dressed for the work that currently pays the bills. I’ll probably be busy with too many corporate problems to think about writing much during the day. But at least the day feels as if it got off to a proper start.

  • AH Roberts

    I love living just outside of town. Our yard is larger than those my town-dwelling friends enjoy. There is plenty of space for turn-out paddocks for our stable of show ponies. Our girls can – and do – have freedom to run, to shoot, to bike without ever leaving our property.

    We don’t have a cookie-cutter home. In fact, our home is more than 150 years old and was built by the family who inspired the name of the road on which we live. Our home was even featured in a local newspaper series about historical homes in the county.

    Today, however, I appreciate neither the historical charm nor the wide-open space. Yet another rainstorm blew in. You would never know we had spent more than 12 man-hours in the last couple of days picking up the yard after a long winter. The lawn and fields are littered with debris yet again. The girls bemoan having to pick up sticks and limbs once more. Even the prospect of earning a little extra spending money for our annual spring shopping trip holds little appeal for them.

    “It’s just going to rain and blow again. Why bother to pick it up?” wonders 10 year old Maggie.

    We’d start today while the sun is shining, but we face another evening of running in to town. How convenient it would be to live in town, near to the girls’ schools and their activities. How convenient it would be for them to be able to walk to and from piano lessons, flute lessons or soccer practice.

    Instead, I’ll drive them in and wait. Perhaps I’ll take the opportunity to walk while they practice. In town, I won’t be battered by the winds that sweep across the cornfields and buffet our buildings and trees. I can admire the nice, neat postage-stamp sized lawns owned by town denizens. I can admire that those yards are already whipped into spring shape, that small beds for flowers are cleared and await new plantings.

    Perhaps by the end of my walk, I’ll notice how similar all the houses on the block look. Maybe I’ll remember how much I despise that the houses are just a few scant feet apart. When I return home, I’ll do chores and, if it’s not windy, sit on the deck off one of the outbuildings. There, I can begin to plan where to set up lawn darts, a slip-n-slide and maybe even a dunk tank for an upcoming party. Maybe I can watch my husband hit golf balls with his driver, aiming for trees standing hundreds of feet away at the back of the pasture. Perhaps I will marvel at the size of the burn pile out near the rear property line; it will make a spectacularly colossal bonfire at the end-of-school party our teen plans to host for her friends. Undoubtedly, I can survey whether we have enough wood stacked near the fire pit, waiting for our first hot dog roast or to be the gathering spot when my husband hosts a beer club meeting as soon as the weather warms up for good.

    I just won’t think about all the sticks and limbs waiting to be added.

    • Winnie

      You have a pretty full day. The great thing is that you’re fully aware of hat you’re doing, it’s not just a routine.

  • Li

    Not sure this really fits but it’s a response to the mundane…

    She dressed like a couch, in those hideous shades of mauve and mint green popular during the 1980s. She wasn’t bad looking for fifty something. But she upholstered herself each day to blend in with her surroundings; the papered walls and dated furniture of the sitting room. Hair dyed orange to match absolutely nothing. Such a frustrating show of later woman hood. How they just give in to their like sitting and becoming a fixture. something comfortable for others to lean on. Ever approachable and soft. Swallowed by domesticity. Her foot wriggled when she thought no one was looking. She took up smoking even though her mother had moved in to the in law quarters several months ago. Her husband failed to notice the faint smell on her breath. She took such delight in her secret vice. She even found herself giggling and sprinting across the room when an unexpected guest arrived. She would wave through the elusive and deadly smoke and fight her way to the door. She wore perfume to cover the smell, something her husband did acknowledge. He assumed her delight was the result of an extramarital affair and his jealousy grew. He hadn’t known her to be so happy in years.

  • The information is very useful and I need it. thank you

  • Over the din at our favorite, packed, Mexican restaurant her tiny voice rose, bell like in it’s announcement.

    “Mommy, I just loosed my tooth,” she lisped. My little daughter, not quite five, had been wiggling the persistent, bottom tooth for days.

    Surrounded by good friends, crammed around a long table, the kids shoved into two booths, we were a jovial party. Little girls squealed, “I want to see.”

    Mothers smiled and teared knowingly. We had all had children lose a tooth before, but this was the baby of the group. An unspoken pride and sympathy passed warmly between us.

    In a room full of people this wasn’t the first tooth to be lost, and it wouldn’t be the last, but it was her first. Swallowing a couple of times I didn’t let on to her the bitter-sweet emotions I felt.

    We all took a good look at the adorable hole in her smile and chuckled as she felt around with her tongue. Her tiny, lilting chatter had suddenly become more difficult to understand than before, if that was possible.

    Tucking the pearl of a tooth into my wallet I shook my head gently at the lapping of time around my girl’s childhood. I feared it would be swept away all too soon.

    • “I loosed a tooth!” adorable …

    • AH Roberts

      Beautiful summation of tooth loss and time passage these milestones represent for mothers.

  • Winnie

    I sit in the shade of the little palm tree, the one entwined by a morning glory
    creeper. The deep purple trumpet flowers draw me in whenever I look up from my
    book. I’m entranced by their delicate ivory throats, luminescent in the morning
    sun. Didn’t someone write a song about deep purple, the colour of the sky after
    sunset, the beginning of the twilight zone that stitches together day and
    night?
    I snap my attention back to the book. Then I see this little chap studying me with a
    beady eye, unmoving, head askew, his skin shimmering and flashing shades of
    blue that move into pink and red. He lifts his four legs off the floor, raises
    his head, closes his eyes, warming up.
    The lizards have accepted me into their territory. The secret is to move slowly
    when they’re around.
    On the patch of lawn just in front of me a Cape Robin hops, stops and studies me,
    head high, then moves on. Now and again he’ll coax something out of the grass.
    A Hadeda Ibis has alighted silently on the wall. He sits unmoving, taking a lot
    longer to assess me. Am I a threat? When he digs his curved beak into the ground he can pick up any movement. We talk about our wonderful electronic sensors; nature had them long before us.
    What other secrets haven’t we discovered in this world within a world?

    • catmorrell

      I want to read a book wherever it is that you are communing with nature too.

    • AH Roberts

      Makes me want to go on vacation where I can sit & enjoy a good book.

    • Clyta Coder

      Excellent. I feel as though I’ve entered your garden. I especially love geckos.

      • Winnie

        Thanks guys. Great to know when you’re on the right path. I was afraid it would get boring…

  • My writing teacher, Kate de Goldi is a firm believer in writing about the small details that make up daily life. She said, ‘Elizabeth Enwright explored the notion of taking one’s time; building of character, relationships, and the minutae of family life.’

  • I had said “Look, there’s cheese
    in the store.”