WARNING: this is a no edit zone…
A child inspired me. I never saw her. Her grandfather and I are members of Emerald Coast Writers and in a pre-meeting discussion, we were fawning over our grandkids, as grandparents are licensed (and fully expected) to do.
He had taken his family on a vacation and he and his granddaughter, who is six, were out for a walk. They came upon a penny. She picked it up and they walked on, then suddenly she stopped, ran back, put the penny back on the sidewalk and then returned to her granddad.
“Why did you put the penny back?” he asked.
She looked up at him. “I have enough luck. I left it for somebody who needs it.”
I thought about that for a long time after the meeting, and if truth be told, during it. And a single question kept rising in my mind. When is enough, enough?
We–and our characters–constant strive for better and more. We often do so at the expense of other important things in our lives, and at times, we focus so hard on our goals that we actually lose sight of why we sought them. The meaning and purpose behind the quest, and, yes, sometimes even the goal itself.
Over the years, I’ve watched writers (and characters in the writing) rationalize doing things that at the beginning they would never have considered doing. Manipulating, using others, taking advantage of people in ways that would have repulsed them. I’ve seen characters go from admirable people ride the edge and tumble into obsession, all for what once had been a noble cause or a worthy goal that was now buried under the moniker of quest success.
It doesn’t matter whether the character got the goal in the end if s/he lost him or herself along the way. It doesn’t matter whether the writer succeeds in the quest if s/he lost the vision that inspired them to first write, either.
So it’s healthy and wise to stop now and then on our journey to fulfill our dreams–and during the course of writing our books–and ask ourselves and our characters if we’ve crossed the line. Or if we’re riding the edge. It’s healthy and wise to ask when enough is enough.