Fitting in or standing out — are we fictitious characters or our real selves?

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Some time ago there was a poster circulating on Facebook that said, “Why try to fit in when you were born to stand out?” I also have a poster in my office — I’ve mentioned it before — that says, “Be Yourself. An original is always worth more than a copy.”

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The truth of both axioms is obvious, and yet I’m not sure why I relate to them… why it appeals to me to have copies. It has something to do with believing I shouldn’t hide the authentic me behind a barricade.

Years ago I had a friend who understood how I felt. We would joke about how we hid behind brick walls and only occasionally pried a brick or two out so others could peek in for a glimpse. After we moved from that city I seldom saw her, and she’s been gone for many years now. I sometimes wonder if she allowed others beneath her protective surface or if most people missed out on getting to know the real person.

To figure out if anyone actually “gets” me would require understanding myself, and I’m not an introspective kind of person. Still, as an aspiring author, I wonder if my writing will allow readers access to me through my characters. (Scary thought!) Writers are often asked if they base their characters on real people, and it’s supposed to be true that we write a little bit of ourselves into all our protagonists, albeit unconsciously. In getting to know my characters I don’t recognize anything of myself in them, but since I don’t really know myself all that well, is it any surprise?

What do you think? Writer or not, how well do you understand yourself? Could you write yourself into a novel and have readers see the authentic you?

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“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:14-16

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