Right now I’m working on a new proposal for another young adult. As I start this process, I begin by fleshing out my character. And one of the first things I ask a character-in-the-making is: What’s your thing? In This Heart of Mine, Leah, who thinks she’s dying in the first part of the novel, is a book geek. On her bucket list is to read a hundred books. In Two Feet Under, Riley is into art. This is very important to her, because she learns her mother was an artist, too. In fact, the book video shows Riley painting. And I love how the video shows it as if it’s important to her. And it is.
And while creating my new character that I’m calling Andi, it got me thinking about having a thing. About how important it is to identify our interests.
You see, when I was growing up, I was in awe of my peers who had a thing, or in some case, things. Girls who loved volley ball. Girls who joined debate clubs. Girls in gymnastics and girls into cheerleading. There were the band lovers and the book clubbers. I envied those girls who knew their “things.”These girls seemed happier. They seemed to have more self-confidence. It appeared as if most them had tribes. Because the people who liked the same things as they did, bonded together.
Me? I felt thingless. And in a lot of ways, I suppose I lacked in the confidence arena.
I think if I hadn’t been dyslexic, I’d have been a book clubber and even a writer. Yes, I loved a story. But with my learning disability, I never felt I could even attempt writing and reading was more of a chore than enjoyment. So I just made up my own stories in my head. Frankly, it didn’t feel like a thing. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone that I spent so much time living in my head. I didn’t have a clue that what I was doing all those years was building my storytelling and plotting skills.
When I finally admitted I wanted to be a writer and I jumped into the that I’m-an-author lifestyle, when I let myself feel the passion, I can’t even begin to tell you how rewarding it was. I finally had a thing. Shortly after joining a writing organization, I found a tribe. I’m lucky my thing, my passion, ended up being my career. But that’s not always the case. In fact, I think we need more than one thing, especially if one of those is a career.
As I’ve matured, I’ve discovered other interests as well. I love wine and enjoy doing tastings and joining wine clubs. I love cooking and looking for new recipes and spending time in the kitchen creating dishes. I love reading and discussing books. I love going to casinos every five or six months and gambling with small set sum that I can afford.
Have you ever been talking to someone you didn’t know that well and the conversation hits on their passion, and they just light up and that person just takes on a whole new dimension? I love hearing people talk about their “things.” I believe we all need to have these interests no matter what our age.
It doesn’t matter what it is. People are passionate about Elvis, Star Wars, ballet or Broadway plays. It can be crocheting or square dancing. Football or going to yard sales. It can be finding potatoes that look like celebrities. It can be anything, as long as it gets you excited and offers you a sense of self and of accomplishment.
When I meet people who aren’t what I’d call depressed, but they aren’t completely content or maybe they are just bored, I often realize that these people are like I was as a teen. They are thingless. They don’t have passions or hobbies. They don’t have a tribe.
So as I ask and try to help my soon-to-be-character discover what her thing is, I’m going to ask you as well: What’s your thing? I thought it would be fun to tell each other about our hobbies and passions.
Do you not have one? If not, I encourage you to find one.