Nothing Special, But Why I Do It

A few years ago, we went to visit my in-laws. My mother-in-law, a professor at the time at a small, prestigious higher education institution, was talking about her students: young men and young women fortunate enough to be favored by talent as well as privilege. She spoke about how impressed she was by these students – deservedly so – but she also said, very specifically, how these young people were special. And, how we were – how I was – decidedly not special by comparison. How I was “mundane”.

Intellectually, I knew she was right. I’m not an Earhart, a Da Vinci, or a Hawking. I’m not epic; I won’t change the world; I have no revolutionary ideas. But, damn it, if hearing those words didn’t twist my guts around my spine and make me want to stab a stake into my hand.

I’ve also never completely gotten over that feeling of being called mundane.

I write all this without fear of repercussion or rebuke because (A) it’s true, and (B) nobody from that side of the family has ever read this blog, or anything I’ve written, actually. There’s a (C) reason in there, too, though. Because, while I might never be special, I still get up every day, and put forth my strongest effort at my job, support and care for my family the best that I can, and give my damnedest for every story I write. They’re not epic; they won’t change the world; they have no revolutionary ideas. But I still do it. Because if we don’t make the effort, what’s the point of any of it?

I wrote this year’s holiday story not to prove to anyone how special I am, or to force down anyone’s throat how special I think my stories are. I wrote it because I love these people and the little life situations they find themselves in. It’s a story about family, and love, and how we’re all worth it, even if we’re part of the mundane. Click the link if you’re interested (will open in a new post).

“Actually and Indeed”
A holiday “Finding Mister Wright” fic by Mayumi Hirtzel (c) 2016
~3400 words / 14 pages

Is there a type of story you like to write best: fantastic or ordinary? Maybe some combination of both?

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7 thoughts on “Nothing Special, But Why I Do It

  1. Wow. I’ve been trying to write a post similar to yours, but I got my inspiration from that one episode of “Friends” when Chandler’s mom called Paulo “just a side character.” I initially took it as her saying he’s a one-dimensional character, but then again, side characters have infinite potential. I couldn’t help but wonder what Paulo might have thought if he knew what she had said.

    But then, I guess while we all seem unremarkable for not making any changes in THE world, I think on some level we make changes on other people’s worlds. For example, meeting you and getting to know you, even if only through a computer screen, has had the greatest impact on me, both in my own quiet life and in writing. I enjoy being able to exchange thoughts with you, and I especially enjoy meditating on what we’ve spoken of.

    The changes you make might not be visible, but they’re definitely there. You’re more special than you know, than your mother-in-law will ever know. And personally (here’s where my jerk mode comes out a tiny bit) I’ve met a number of brilliant, talented people in grad school, but I can honestly say that there were quite a number of unpleasant people in my first year. One of the smartest ones (grade-wise) would actually bully others, putting them down so he could elevate himself. It was, well, let’s just say he made some changes to some people’s worlds that weren’t for the better.

    You’re remarkable no matter what you think. Keep doing what you’re doing! 🙂

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    • Aw, thanks, spooney! Sorry if this post came out sounding like me fishing for compliments. I did not intend that! I just needed to get those feelings off my chest, and writing them here is the easiest way to do that.

      I have always enjoyed spending time with you, too! ❤ You've always been honest about your work – and mine – and that honesty and friendship has meant a lot to me. 🙂

      The role of supporting character is a more palatable way of thinking of it, at least to my mind. Though, everybody is the star of their own story. Still, it's hard to think of a successful story with just the hero/heroine, without other (supporting) characters there to lend perspective and create tension. I think if she'd told me we were more part of the chorus or crew, and not the brightest name on the marquee, I could have accepted her assessment with more aplomb. 😉

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They always make me smile. 🙂

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      • Oddly enough, I didn’t get the vibe of you fishing for compliments. I just got the same irksome vibe from your mother-in-law as what I get from some of my relatives, so it’s cool. I think you’re right that she should’ve worded it differently, at least in a less condescending way.

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  2. You, mundane? I find that hard to believe! Because it sure seems like we here think you pretty special.
    As long as what you’re writing makes you happy, then I’ll always look forward to more. Everyone needs that space to let what’s in their mind run free in whatever form it takes. Not to mention the singular talent to write love and affection the way you do, it’s just always a joy to read 🙂

    As for me, I think it’s safe to say that I’m more of a fantastical writer than a realistic one. But, maybe that means I just need to do more realistic stuff and expand what I think I know, which I hope to do through 2017.

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    • I think you put a LOT of realism into your stories, shade. You may feel more comfortable in a fantastic setting, but the emotions are true. I know I’ve been trying to capture what you can do in your Cipher and Rogues series in my own battle scenes. 🙂

      There’s nothing wrong with not being extraordinary. The world needs ordinary people to carry a lot of the weight. I don’t know – I guess it just felt like I didn’t *matter*, because I’m not a genius or talented, and that rubbed me raw. It’s so nice to hear that I do, though. ❤

      Thanks, friend! You mean a lot to me, too!

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  3. I have the same reaction as the other two commenters–I’m scratching my head over your MIL’s comments. Where does someone like that get off? And then I have to remind myself–it’s those people who feel the need to beat down others who fear their own lack of specialness. It’s a very familiar story, unfortunately.

    Most brilliant, privileged people annoy me to the hilt. I only appreciate brilliance and privilege if they are used to better the world, and that’s where I draw the line. I know several of these so-called special, non-mundane people and they make great fodder for fiction. I hope you put your MIL in your stories–unless that’s just spending way too much time with her!

    You rock on, Mayumi, and keep on writing! (Will try to read your file in a bit …)

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    • Thanks for stopping in, Kate!

      She is a very smart lady with a lot of good points, and I do value her opinion. I think that’s why it hurt so much to be dismissed like that. She probably didn’t even intend it the way I took it, and, of course, I never said anything about it until now. I’d bet she doesn’t even remember having that conversation.

      It’s a lot easier to respect someone who uses their power and authority to create good and protect others. It’s one reason why I choose to support the arts, animals, and the environment. Those are invaluable aspects of our global lives that often can’t look after themselves enough against the technological human machine. Yes, people and freedoms and rights matter, but we also have a duty to look after those whose voices aren’t heard in public forums or online petitions. Thank you for being a positive influence in my life as a writer and as a person. I’m doing my best to pass on the kindness and wisdom you’ve shared with me. 🙂

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