On the Beauty of Cliches
A lot of the time when I start to write, I find myself beginning with, or resorting to cliches. Phrases and images so well-worn by our collective consciousness, like a favourite pair of pants.
At first I hated it, like I was some fraud of a writer, a shitty excuse for one to always be using cliches. I should be more creative, original. I should be innovative, unexpected, unpredictable. I should not be using boring, tired old cliches. Cliches are weak because they are safe and predictable.
And great writing is neither.
But then I think about those favourite pair of pants. And I realize that maybe I use cliches precisely because they are so familiar to me, so comfortable. Because maybe in order to write well, I have to get comfortable before I can get uncomfortable. I have to feel safe within myself first to summon the will, the courage, to push my own boundaries. To step outside the edges of all I’ve done and all I am. To do the dangerous, difficult work of stripping my soul bare and leaving my quivering self exposed. Uncovered. Unmasked.
There’s something beautiful about cliches, tired as they may be. I think it’s the fact that we all understand them. That we can share that much with each other. That they can be there for us when we don’t know what to say, when we can’t find the right words, when we’ve tried all we can but just can’t say it any better.
Cliches are safe. Cliches are predictable. That’s their weakness and downfall, and yet also their source of strength, our source of strength. We reach for them the way we reach for our favourite pair of pants — because they’re easy, reliable, and require little thought or effort. And on those days when nothing at all is simple or fits right or seems to be working, these tired old cliches can become our faithful refuge; cradles of comfort for our own tired, weary old selves. They give us rest for a moment, reminding us of all that remains tried and true, of all that is timeless. Of all the things that exist that connect us all. And how even in solitary, difficult, and powerless moments, we have these things to come back to, to lean on, and because of this, we are never truly alone.