Writing Exercise #1: Ordinary and Extraordinary

This is a writing exercise I did with Miles. We used a prompt from my “Fiction Writers Workshop” book that says to write about the ordinary as if it were extraordinary and vice versa. It’s not as easy as you might think. I started out thinking I’d describe various things I saw walking to the bus stop – for example, I’d describe dog crap as some richly complex mixture of varied ingredients, enigmatic conical structures. And then have some crazy thing happen, like a flying unicorn or dinosaur appear, but describe them in a mundane way. That’s not quite what happened – the writing took a definitely Kafkaesque feel that fit the exercise. Anyway, here it is:

Every morning, I walk for ten minutes to the bus stop. I don’t have time to admire everything on the way, but the splendor seeps into my mind. Because even long after, while I’m standing and smashed between two college students on the bus, I can see the grand cement geometry of the sidewalk below me. The rectangular blocks laid flat, once small stone and earth, then ground and turned to liquid, finally shaped and hardened into the vast expanse that maps every edge of the city. Somehow these stretches seem connected. Despite breaks here and there for a street or yard, they are so similar and ubiquitous that it’s hard not to think of them as a complex, omnipresent network of stone walkways. They are borders between the lethal passage of fire-powered metal boxes and the dull shapes that crowd our landscape – pencil-like skyscrapers; the triangles on top of squares we call churches (supposedly special with their colored windows); the stacks of bricks or slats of aluminum we call homes. The cut of a street merely serves as a resting place for the sidewalk; perhaps it regains its strength underground, and reemerges on the other side with renewed vigor. There are, of course, those places such as highways, rivers, and wooded areas where the sidewalk has no root. Yet, what power do such places hold? Highways lying there like unrolled tape measures. Rivers idly passing like a breeze. Forests sitting there like dead wood, unconnected to our urban empire.

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