by Debbie Vance
When reading a 2013 Paris Review “Art of Biography No. 4” interview with Hermione Lee yesterday, I stumbled upon two quotes–both of which the author shared, neither of which are directly from her, which seems appropriate for a writer of biographies–and I thought them so remarkable in their simplicity, in the sheer grace with which they endow mundane moments, that it would be shame not to share them here.
“It is those periods of existence which are lived through carelessly, unwillingly, or in boredom, that most often fructify into art.” —Marcel Proust
“Experiences aren’t given to us to be ‘got over,’ otherwise they would hardly be experiences.” —Penelope Fitzgerald
It seems that much of our day-to-day lives are dominated by a sense that this particular moment, that particular person rounding the corner across the street, this particular spreadsheet I’m filling out will have no great affect on my future creative endeavors and is, therefore, relatively irrelevant to my greater life. We tick away minutes and hours, we bide our time and twiddle our thumbs until the “next big thing” occurs, breaking our otherwise dull lives.
But here, Proust and Penelope Fitzgerald herald the importance of paying attention to the small, mundane moments, and suggest that, in fact, it is by struggling through, wrestling with, and experiencing fully whatever there is to experience–boredom and monotony included–that we mature as humans, that our art is fructified. What a beautiful thought–that our most dull moments need not be dull if only because they carry the chance for human and artistic development. Strange and delightful, indeed.
A challenge to you as you walk step by step through your lives: May your boredom fructify your art.
Tags: Paris Review, Quotes, Writing Life