Welcome to How to Keep Writing Wednesdays, where you'll find a boost of encouragement to help you keep the words flowing.

Defining Moments

All stories, fiction or nonfiction, are built on defining moments. These moments change a character for better or for worse. In real life, defining moments push us into being more (or less) of who we deeply are.

Defining moments are like opening a door and walking through it, and then realizing the door has closed behind you. You can’t go back and even if you could, it wouldn’t be the same. Crossing that threshold signals an irrevocable shift, whether you want it to happen or not. You are no longer the same person you were a minute ago.

Are all defining moments profound or huge? Not necessarily. It’s not the act of the moment itself but how you react to it. What do you choose to do or not to do? Your decision in that moment sets you on a path. Sometimes the most powerful moments are ones in which you act in a manner that’s unexpected or seemingly out of character. 

Every moment is an opportunity for something deeper. Novelists know this. Those writing memoir know that readers seek out life-changing moments or experiences. The extraordinary in ordinary moments. It doesn’t have to be high drama, but it has to have high stakes. It may be a decision that seems inconsequential to others but you know the weight of what could happen. And when it does happen, it changes you.

If you have a story to tell, think about those defining moments that seem quiet but pack a punch. We expect a lost job, cancer diagnosis, or car accident to have such implications, but what about the teacher who gave you your first A (or F), a family ring that was lost then found, a dress that’s been hanging in the closet for years that you can finally fit into? What about a smell that reminds you of your grandmother’s kitchen or faraway summers on the beach or your hands in the dirt of your father’s farm?

Defining moments are life-changing and at times difficult, but remember—there is no growth in the status quo. Consider the defining moments in your life and try writing them down, if not for you then for the other people in your life who might benefit and appreciate knowing more about you.