While on the treadmill today, I listened to a podcast I’d missed on vacation. Not my usual MO, but it was a nice change to get lost in dialog instead of my usual collection of jogging songs. Because usually when I’m past the halfway point of my run and the end of a song approaches, that’s about the time a whiny little voice in my head starts begging me to walk for “just a minute”. And there’s no way I’ll meet the goal of running my first 5K this year if I keep caving to that darned voice!
Anyhoo… One of the major points of today’s surprisingly inspirational message was this: We are not defined by what we do, but rather, by who we are.
Not by what we do, but by who we are?
The thought was so different than what I’ve heard for so long that it kinda caught me by surprise. So much so, that I had to make a conscious effort not to stop and ponder it (um, yeah, a faceplant on the treadmill is not the way I want to be remembered at our YMCA…).
People defined by their character, not their accomplishments. If you think about it, the idea is so Thoreau, isn’t it? Leave the world a little better off than you found it and all that jazz?
And it makes sense. I mean, really, only so many of us can do (insert monumental feat here) first. Or be the first to (enter extraordinary professional accomplishment here). And while social media loves these types of big events, guess what? As soon as yours is over, the photographers are off to try and capture the next big thing. Ten years from now that “big thing” will be but a blip on the radar, and probably nothing about it will be shared from generation to generation.
I plan to chew on this idea for my personal life (wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend) but also see a lot of potential for applying it to the fictional characters I bring to life on paper. Supplying them with backgrounds sprinkled with moments that helped to shape who they are, instead of just giving them a bunch of tasks to complete or goals to accomplish before my readers reach THE END. Because really, isn’t that how we come to be who we are? By the moments in our pasts that helped shape our own character?
Believable characters with relatable characteristics—they’re the ones I love to write about. Well-rounded characters you can grow to love, or sit back and love to hate. If all I ever wrote about was (insert next big thing here), then after a while all that excitement would be, well, ho-hum. Readers would become numb to it all, desensitized. And where’s the fun in that?
No, I want to write about characters we can truly picture as our loving spouses, our zany sisters, our rambunctious toddlers, and our slightly off-kilter, cat-lady neighbors. People who let who they are define their character, not just a bunch of trumped up, outrageous accomplishments. Perhaps even people who, by the time you’ve finished the book, may even inspire you to take a closer look at who you are…and if that’s really who you want to be.