Writers and other creatives can be great at coming up with compelling stories, but when are we approaching our own lives with the same care and innovation? Did you just say “huh??” That’s okay! I’m here to give you some tips on how to really embody that main character energy when you’re a writer or other creative type.
Of course, everything I’ve written here can still be applied if you’re an accountant or a pediatric nurse, but in case you’re here for the first time, hi, I’m a writer and this is a blog about books and writing.
So how can you live more like a protagonist and be the main character of your own life?
I’m starting with this because I know this is going to ruffle some feathers. Just getting the tough love out of the way, pals. It just so happens that you’re responsible for how you’re living your life. You literally ARE the protagonist.
I’m in no way saying that you have invited or deserved any awful things that have happened to you, just so you know. Other people are also responsible for their actions and they had no right to hurt you. But, listen, you get to decide how you react. No matter how toxic your mom is or how much you hate your day job, it’s still up to you to steer the boat of all the things that you CAN control.
Do you want to finish writing your novel but you just don’t have the time? Who, exactly, are you waiting to give you the time? So you got some mean comments on one of your drawings that you shared and now you don’t want to do it anymore – are you really going to wait until that magical day when you’re so perfect that no one has anything bad to say about you, or could you just learn to deal with the criticism in a healthier way?
Because let’s be real, if you really wanted to quit, you would have taken up accounting already. (My sincerest apologies to all accountants for roasting you, I am merely fearful of your arcane wisdom.)
And you know what? Sometimes it was all you, and you need to take responsibility for that too. Maybe your book really wasn’t that good, maybe you weren’t very good at that job and perhaps you could have treated that person with a little more respect. It’s time to take responsibility for those things too.
Blaming everyone else might work at the beginning of your story but it’s time for you to go through some character development now.
Honour your feelings
I am an author, blogger and an Etsy shop owner, but actually I have a degree in nursing. It could make for a funny story, but seven years after graduation I still don’t have it in me. In any case, I managed to drag myself through the three and a half years it took, all the while feeling pretty awful about it on a regular basis. But that’s what everyone else does, right?
So, um, it turns out that you ARE supposed to enjoy what you do for a living. Constant feeling of fear, getting sick more often than normal and praying for the work day to end as soon as it has started are pretty reliable signs that you’re not exactly doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Only just recently I realised that there are plenty of people who absolutely love working in health care – thank God for that, right?
I don’t want to keep talking about myself here, but I don’t know who else to use as an example since my own feelings are the only ones I have access to. Weird, huh? So you might think I’m some kind of a special kind of moron to ignore my own feelings, but the thing is, I was never taught that my feelings matter at all. What I personally wanted out of life was of no importance, so how on earth could I figure out what I wanted to study or do for a living?
Your feelings are there for a reason, my precious pumpkin. If you try to pursue something that doesn’t actually vibe with you, you are going to feel it in some way. Suppressing that feeling is going to lead to some pretty unsavoury side effects. I know we have to live in the real world and sometimes it just isn’t feasible to abandon your job to paint goats on the Alps, but you do need to be honest with yourself about why you’re doing what you’re doing.
It doesn’t just apply to work and hobbies, you need the same kind of following your feelings with your friendships and other relationships. If you feel like you need to suck it up in order to move forward with something, you’re going the wrong way.
Know what you love and find more of it
We’re constantly bombarded with messages about what we’re supposed to like and enjoy. If you’re a mother of two, you’re not supposed to like heavy metal, young boys shouldn’t like ponies and if you want to be taken seriously, you can’t love pastels and pretty things.
All of that is nonsense and lies.
Your job as the main character of your own life is to always be on the lookout for things that make you go WOW. Then go out in the world and find more of those things. Live them, bring them to your home, feel them, wear them, show them off. That’s how happiness is made.
Me, I love birds. Ravens especially. I also love to crochet, I love dressing up like a vintage marshmallow, I love laughter, running and gardening. On weekends I like to start my day by watching a documentary while I have my breakfast and coffee, not because I want to look smart, but because learning makes me happy. Yesterday I bought a mint green crop top although my 40-year-old sister highly disapproves that I dare dress like that.
I’m not telling you this to show off or to tell you that you need to love these things as well. I want to give you inspiration so you can write a list like that about your own life as well and then go on a hunt for even more things that make your heart soar. Wouldn’t you love to live like that?
Stop trying to please everyone
It does feel icky when somebody doesn’t like you, doesn’t it? Humans are social animals and it used to be pretty important to be well-liked if you wanted to stay alive, but nowadays you can interact with far more people than what are integral for your survival. Although your instincts may say otherwise, you do not, in fact, have to please all of the 1281 followers you have on Instagram.
Do you know a book that nobody has anything bad to say about? Of course not, unless it was written by your own child and you’re the only one who has read it. Anything else is going to receive critical comments, and that’s just the way it is. Go ahead, see how many 1-star reviews your favourite book has on Amazon or Goodreads. The fact that those opinions exist doesn’t change the book or your love for it.
A true protagonist knows that it’s impossible to live in a way that is going to please everyone. There is nothing on earth that every single human can agree on, and if you try to create something that will appeal to everyone, you’ll end up with something that no one will LOVE. You’re never going to get anything done if you keep running around in different directions looking for everyone’s approval. Care about your own opinion above all and then go find your flock.
Accept you might need to improve
That said… you’re also not perfect. Sure, a negative opinion is just an opinion, but you can’t automatically think all praise is valid and all criticism is not. Or you CAN, of course, but that’s not how to live like a main character and that’s definitely not the way to improve and grow.
There are people who will disown you if you ever criticize them and who will think you are personally attacking them if you don’t love something they created. Don’t be like them. That’s heckin’ toxic. If something is important to you, then you have to accept the tough love and strive to do better.
We had this guy in nursing school who reckoned that peer review was a form of bullying because “it just wasn’t right” that someone would be allowed to point out flaws in your research, and I’m pretty relieved he ended up working in an ambulance and not in medical research.
What if you don’t want to improve and you think you’re already good enough? Accepting yourself is one thing, and 100% recommended for all protagonists, but if we’re talking about things that you’re serious and passionate about, you need to be on a path of constant learning. If you’re not loving the learning experiences, maybe you need to re-evaluate where you’re putting your energy. Maybe embroidery portraits aren’t your thing after all.
I wrote that in all caps because it’s just that important.
Being kind is not always easy. Be kind anyway. People don’t always seem to deserve your kindness. Be kind anyway.
Your life isn’t about what other people are saying or doing, it’s about you, and would you not rather be kind than mean or petty? You don’t have time for that kind of nonsense anyway if you want to do main characther sh*t.
Just to be clear, you need to be kind to yourself as well. That means you have to honour your own feelings and boundaries and say no when you need to. Lying to keep others happy is not necessarily kind either, nor is letting them get away with causing harm. If you’re having trouble choosing your words and actions, just consider what is necessary and refer to the other sections of this post if needed.
Just say YIKES and move on
I mean, people, am I right? They’re always doing weird stuff, and although you should point out injustices whenever you can, sometimes all you can do is say yikes and move on.
Somebody out there will always do stuff you don’t approve of. You can’t make everyone agree with you. This is something I’ve personally struggled with, but last spring definitely taught me that it’s waste of my energy to try and respond to all the 5G and microchips conspiracy nonsense I come across on social media. I’ve become very good at unfollowing people at the slightest provocation and I have to say I feel so much lighter for it.
I recently saw a Twitter post saying that adulthood is just learning to say “fair enough” and moving on, and that’s exactly what being the main character of your own life requires as well. You have your own mission and your own projects to focus on.
Remember your real goals
There are loads of vanity metrics in the world to distract you, and not just on social media. It’s very easy to get caught up on trying to achieve things that don’t actually contribute anything to your happiness and your real goals.
Concerned with not having a flat stomach? Not enough followers on Instagram? Does your father-in-law judge your lack of cooking skills? Acing all those things will probably make you LOOK good, but if you want to be the protagonist, you’d do better to focus on the things that will actually bring you closer to your goals.
Just take a moment to evalute what you really want from life. If you can’t quite think in such a grand scale, you can focus on the year, month or week ahead.
If you want to become a full-time artist and get paid for it, does it really matter how many people follow you on social media, or is it more important how those people interact with you and with your work? If you have 1 000 followers and EACH OF THEM buys something from you that costs 50 euros, that comes down to 50 000 euros. Don’t worry, Americans, that’s a big lump of money in your currency as well.
Likewise, if your ultimate goal as the main character of your own life is to find True Love, do you really, genuinely think having a perfectly flat stomach is going to help with that? Whoever you’re going to attract that way is going to GTFO the minute you eat a little too much ice cream and wake up bloated the next day because you somehow forgot you’re lactose intolerant. (Seriously this happens to me all the time.)
Let other people agonise over what they want, this has nothing to do with you. Stay laser-focused on the things that really matter to you.
Don’t forget your values
Doing the right thing is not always easy, but if you want to live like the main character of your own life, you have to keep your own values in your mind and act according to them.
You don’t have to support fast fashion even if talking about it makes other people feel uncomfortable. You don’t have to let your children watch violent cartoons or eat meat even if your relatives think you’re uptight and moralizing.
Others will probably find you easier to live with if you always go with what they see is right, but that is no way to live like a protagonist. And isn’t it easier to sleep when you know you’ve done right by yourself?
Just remember that you’re not the only protagonist here and that you don’t get to infringe on other people’s rights, and that it’s totally fine to rethink your values as you grow and learn.
Essentially, being your own protagonist requires you to tune out the noise in the world and focus on the amazing things that really will make your heart soar. There are many ways to live on this earth and you just need to find yours. Let others live theirs, too.