What makes a story good? What makes it move? Action, conflict, suspense, character development, plot twists – absolutely, all of the above. And also all the stuff that we can’t see: the mundane, the rote, the grunt work, the daily tasks and habitual actions. A great story isn’t made of people brushing teeth, showering, packing a lunch and heading to work to create pivot tables. World-class novels are not composed of email responses and traffic jams and grocery shopping. But without such things the characters would never get where they needed to go and be who they need to be.
It is the mundane that allows the excitement to happen. Normalcy is the network of bridges which connects the islands of excitement. Without the boring we could never get to the good parts.
And it is the same with our stories. Much has been written about living a good story and about how we are part of a grand narrative. God is the author and we are characters. My story intersects with others to make a massive, intricate, incomprehensible plot line which only an omnipotent author could understand and direct. And so we are encouraged to “live a better story” and to “make the most out of our stories.”
But what is it that makes my story good? Describing a good story in general is easy enough, but when it’s my story it becomes complicated. For some it’s making memories, for other making millions. For some it is strong relationships with God and man. Or it could be acts of nobility and service. Or maybe it’s risk and thrills – living for the experience. Likely it is the unique combination of these which leads to peace and happiness for each individual.
An ingredient is missing from that combination, though: all the boring stuff. Without the mundane there are no memories or experiences or relationships or nobility. So we must do the commonplace well. Work hard. Excel at details. Invest our minds and energy in our commutes, our cleaning, the forms we fill out, the children we bathe and feed, the meals we prepare, the teeth we brush, and correspondence we send. For, if you look close, this is really the stuff that makes the story good.