Cliche refers to words, commonplace to ideas. Cliche describes the form or the letter, commonplace the substance or spirit. To confuse them is to confuse the thought with the expression of the thought. The cliche is immediately perceivable; the commonplace very often escapes notice if decked out in original dress. There are few examples, in any literature, of new ideas expressed in original form. The most critical mind must often be content with one or the other of these pleasures, only too happy when it is not deprived of both at once, which is not too rarely the case.
You may want to keep a commonplace book which is a notebook where you can copy parts of books you think are in code, or take notes on a series of events you may have observed that are suspicious, unfortunate, or very dull. Keep your commonplace book in a safe place, such as underneath your bed, or at a nearby dairy.
Nothing fires the warrior's heart more with courage than to find himself and his comrades at the point of annihilation, at the brink of being routed and overrun, and then to dredge not merely from one's own bowels or guts but from one's discipline and training the presence of mind not to panic, not to yield to the possession of despair, but instead to complete those homely acts of order which Dienekes had ever declared the supreme accomplishment of the warrior: to perform the commonplace under far-from-commonplace conditions.
Every once and a while somebody writes a script, but even regardless of what age you are, most of the actors would all agree that it's all based upon material and the material has got to spark with you. It may be great material but you think it's great material for somebody else. Or it's great material and I'm perfect for it. So, you just have to make that judgment and if you feel in the mood to do it.
Did any great genius ever enter the world in the wake of commonplace pre-natal conditions? Was a maker of history ever born amidst the pleasant harmonies of a satisfied domesticity? Of a mother who was less than remarkable, although she may have escaped being great? Did a woman with no wildness in her blood ever inform a brain with electric fire? The students of history know that while many mothers of great men have been virtuous, none have been commonplace, and few have been happy.
My writing is of a very different kind from anything I've heard about. All this mythological material is out there, a big gathering of stuff, and I have been reading it for some forty- or fifty-odd years. There are various ways of handling that. The most common is to put the material together and publish a scholarly book about it. But when I'm writing, I try to get a sense of an experiential relationship to the material. In fact, I can't write unless that happens ... I don't write unless the stuff is really working on me, and my selection of material depends on what works.
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