What Makes Your Life Extraordinary?
In Dead Poet’s Society, Mr Keating takes the boys to the hallway to see the photos of past students and whispers the immortal lines, “Carpe diem. Seize the days, boys. Makes your lives extraordinary.”
A current television commercial runs the slogan, “Escape ordinary.”
What makes a life extraordinary?
People buy into this idea of your life having to be a Broadway extravaganza or a Hollywood blockbuster ALL. THE. TIME.
We are presented with hyper-idealised notions of reality. Do life BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, LOUDER, MORE DEMONSTRATIVE, IN YOUR FACE and (dare I use it because I hate the acronym) YOLO! It’s perfectly captured in the Selfie Generation: LOOK AT ME, I’M IMPORTANT AND I DESERVE YOUR ATTENTION.
It is the wrong perspective.*adjusts cardigan and puts on slippers*
What’s wrong with ordinary? Ordinary is where I live and find my inspiration. I joke my life is coloured beige for boring, making my life extra ordinary.
For the creative person, extraordinary is a way to burn out because it demands you give out so much more of yourself than is returning to you.
“The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”
For me as a writer, the greatest stories are not the ones we see in films, the lives of movie stars, but in the embarrassing ordinariness of people doing things in their every day lives that benefits others. The ones who don’t see their work as anything important; they are filling a need, taking care of their community, advocating for the poor and disadvantaged. Living an extraordinary life is one lived in service of others and pursing your own dreams. Balancing the self with the care of others. Telling their story is an extraordinary privilege.
I like to think of the word as “extra-ordinary.” The one thing that defines the ordinary from the extraordinary is passion. Mr Keating exhorted his young charges to engage with the aspects of life that they were passionate about.
For the creative person, the passion manifests itself in the choice of medium whether it’s writing, art or music.
As it relates to creativity, to continually produce great art, to live an extra ordinary life, requires repetition, ritual and reflection.
Not once, not twice, not even thrice but continually and habitually. Continue to produce art: write regularly; sketch, doodle, scribble whenever possible; practice scale and rudiments.
Repetition can become staid and uninspiring so it requires a dedication and committed work ethic to maintain your focus on being creative.
Early efforts will be complete and utter rubbish. But that’s the point of repetition: you do it until you get better.
Setting aside an assigned time to work on your creative project is like attending church or settling onto the couch to watch your favourite television show or sport team compete. Like repetition, it is a repeated event but the goal is one of individual development.
Ritual provides structure and is an active reminder to develop a disciplined approach to our creativity.
Movement without reflection will only end up with you moving in a circular fashion, only ever returning to the starting point without having learned or progressed.
Every once in a while it is important to reflect on your goals, your progress in terms of work produced and skills developed. Are you improving? Has anything weakened? What else do you need to know?
Creativity makes your life extraordinary because you have embraced repetition, ritual and reflection. You are taking the ordinariness of life and giving it meaning through creating great art.
This makes you extraordinary.
Addendum: This morning in the shower (place of many great epiphanies along with the kitchen sink while washing up) I had another idea to add. It was the one thing that makes a life extraordinary: Relationship.
Without relationship, we are merely individuals without community and connection. In relationship with other creative people we make our lives extraordinary because we have companionship, connection and community. We are no longer alone. This is fundamental in making our lives extraordinary.