Character Is the Stuff that Stories Are Made Of
Most of the people who know me are unaware that I am a writer. Oh, sure, my business associates and my clients know I am a writer. However, most of my neighbors and several of my acquaintances have no idea that I write for a living. Why?
I stopped telling people that I’m a writer several years ago because I got tired of hearing 18-year-olds say they wanted to write their autobiography because they’d “had such an interesting life.”
“At 18?” I want to ask, scoffing derisively. Since I’m also polite, I don’t usually scoff, derisively or otherwise. However, I do find myself immediately growing impatient with young people who think the world wants to hear their story just because it fascinates them. Certainly some young people have lived lives that others may want to read about, however, that number is miniscule.
Do I sound jaded? I hope not, however, I fear I may. And, yet, each time someone says something to me about how fascinating or interesting their own life has been, I find myself recalling a conversation I had years ago with one of my university professors, a celebrated artist in her native country.
She said that in her twenties she’d met and had become friends with the famous painter and sculptor, Pablo Picasso. A few years after they’d met, she asked Picasso if he would paint her. Picasso refused with a gentle, yet meaningful explanation. He told her to ask him again in 10 years when she was in her mid-thirties because then her face “would have character.”
When 18-year-olds tell me their life story is book material. I want to tell them to wait until they’re 50 or 60 or older to write their autobiography –when their life has more character.
Steve Jobs died this month on October 5th. He was 56. Now Steve was a man whose life had character. He and Steve Wozniak had a dream about putting a computer on every desktop worldwide. And with just that dream, they built an empire. Apple computers, iPads, and iPhones are just about everywhere. Jobs and Wozniak changed the way people worldwide do business.
Jobs, in fact, went on to build several empires. He will, perhaps, be remembered as one of the most amazing innovators of our time. Think different is an Apple mantra.
The Macintosh computer changed the world and the lives of many millions of people when it was introduced in January 1984. And Steve went on to become a living legend.
When we speak about a life that has character, Walter Isaacson’s biography of
Steve Jobs’s is one that is well worth reading, especially for those 18-year-olds, so they know to aim for the stars.
Character is the stuff that stories are made of. Develop that and you have a story worth writing—and reading.
Rest in peace, Steve, and thank you for changing the world for the better.