Piercing the Mundane to Find the Marvelous

woman showing retro photo camera and holding blooming flower

I’m quite fond of this quote from American journalist Bill Moyers: “Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.” No matter how mundane something may at first appear, a truly creative effort can find a way to make it not only interesting, but marvelous! So, how is this done?

To dive into the profound idea of this quote, let’s explore the intriguing concept of creativity and its remarkable ability to transform even the most ordinary aspects of life into something truly extraordinary. So, in what ways can creativity reshape the mundane world around us? 

In particular, comedians are masters of turning the mundane inside-out and upside-down. Comedian George Carlin often talked about bringing up things that you “forgot to laugh at the first time.” Perhaps the most famous example of this is his sketch about “A Place for My Stuff.” He muses about how your house is just “a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” But, he goes much further, expanding on how every time you go on a trip, you have to take a smaller version of your stuff with you. 

Another humorous example of Carlin’s genius that comes to mind is his Ice Box sketch. As someone who has had to be the refrigerator police in my house on multiple occasions, I fully appreciate what he has to say. I especially love his remark about how people keep leftovers far past the point of being edible; he quips, “eat this before I give it to an animal.” Honestly, you shouldn’t give rotten food to any domesticated animal, but I digress. The points Carlin makes in his sketches, even his later politically-charged ones, is to take things that you’ve certainly thought about, but never thought of in such a humorous context.

Perhaps in part because of Carlin’s comedic influence on me as a child, I approached my decade-long digital marketing career in a similar way. In an age where content is top dog, you constantly need new ways to transform the mundane into something memorable. Even if you’re selling something like drywall — something I have actually done in my life — you have to find some way to market it effectively. 

The trick with selling a pretty boring product is to find an obvious truth, but share it in a less than obvious way. In this example, I’d remind people that without sheetrock, you’re looking at open studs all the time. I was pleasantly surprised how well drywall would sell with that as a website landing page selling point.

One of the best ways to make these simple marketing ideas work is to share them with your co-workers or vendors. At one of our vendor shows, I told one of our drywall reps a great joke: “I know you love looking at studs like yourself all day, but your customers just want white walls.” I got quite a laugh. I hope that rep’s career took off after that, but it was one of a few jokes I told reps to help sell products, and I know a few got promoted after that. It helps to bring some humanity to some as dry as, well, drywall.

(Personally, I’m rather fond of the retro look of wood paneling, but I digress; most people love white walls, and I can’t really argue with them.)

Creativity must never be over-appreciated; yet, it’s most often under-appreciated. Anyone who can make something “boring” into something entertaining and thought-provoking should be lavishly praised. Sure, moments of creativity can often yield some odd-ball concepts and brilliant moments of absurdity. But, these efforts given the proper room to work can bear unexpected fruit eventually. I often find the thing that you expect to do well the least that ends up doing the most work for me in the long run.

Being creative is just like working out at the gym, only with your brain. The more you consistently invite new possibilities, the more latitude you’ll have to recognize new options as they occur. Most things in life are simply not that exciting, especially when it comes to our day jobs. But when I find a way to overcome some annoying inefficiency or save costs in a common task, I must remind myself take time to appreciate these innovations, no matter how minimal they may seem.

In my experience, most people have more creative ideas than they realize. Sadly, I watch many ideas are taken credit for by others. Still, this doesn’t make their origination any less important. Many of my own best ideas have been realized after I’ve moved on from a particular job. While I could be bitter about that, at least someone is benefiting from their implementation. I have to recognize that my ideas can have positive influences, even if I don’t personally benefit from their success.

Just as important, even if an idea fails, it doesn’t mean that it was a bad idea. Most of the time when failures occur, it’s not the idea or the concept that was faulty, but rather the execution. Also, the most important thing about creativity that is often left out of the discussion is that most ideas are going to be pretty boring. But, the mundane difficulties and inconveniences are necessary to inspire the foundational ideas which lead to bigger and better ideas.

So, next time you think what you have to write about, or say, or sell, is boring, remind yourself not to worry. There’s always someone out there who can turn the most mundane topic, product, or service into something memorably marvelous. Chances are, you may have more ideas on how to do just that right now! Just give yourself a chance to be creative and you’ll be a lot happier. You never know when you may just stumble on something marvelous, leaving behind a trail of inspiration and innovation in your wake.

~ Amelia <3

Related: Creativity Comes From Within | Creativity Means Letting Go of Certainties

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.

8 thoughts on “Piercing the Mundane to Find the Marvelous

  1. Yes! Omydays, I love this. Creativity is most of the time under-appreciated and I think it may have something to do with money? At least in my culture, they don’t see creativity as something of value because they themselves won’t pay for it?

    1. You bring up a great point, AJ, that some people only consider something “creative” if it’s something that makes money. Of course, money is only one way to create value. It would be nice for more people to understand that 🙂

  2. This is exactly why I love comedians – they take the every day and make it entertaining. George Carlin is a great example, but James Acaster (British comedian) is also such an odd ball and I love listening to him.

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

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