The words come and go into short lines, just emotions laid bare, like it always was, like it always has been, maybe like it always will be. Just short lines, poems, free verse. She feels she can only write as herself. That means poems that are intense and sometimes over-wrought. It means essays in a conversational tone and occasional musings. It does not mean short stories, because who is she to think she can get in someone else’s skin and feel with their senses and soul? She doesn’t even remember the last time she dared.
How, she wondered, do you get inside their skin? Do you slip in the ear when they are overcome by music? Do you float in on a thought take up residence in the brain? Are you so bold as to dive in through the mouth when they take a deep breath and expand from the lungs until you fill them everywhere, body and soul? Or do you creep in slowly over time until you inhabit their very being? Perhaps, she thought, she had it all backwards. Maybe she doesn’t inhabit them. Maybe they inhabit her, seeping in any way they can. Maybe they’re already inside, just waiting until the time is right.
She wondered if it is permissible to write about someone so very like yourself but isn’t you. Does it matter if those who know you best can see right through that character to you? Do you make yourself paper-thin by explaining the motivations of that fictional person? Does it matter if they think it’s you, even if it isn’t? Does it matter if it is you?
“Well,” she thought, “You can think yourself in circles and talk yourself out of trying, or you can just get to it.” She warmed up her imagination, fired up the computer, and began to type.
“Brian had really just stepped inside the church to get away from the hot, crowded streets of Florence in August. He only wanted to rest his feet for a little while and cool off. He found a pew and let the quiet coolness wash over him.
“At the end of the day, she’s the one who began it, ” she sang to herself. Different context than the Les Miserables song. At the end of the day was not the time to start writing, she thought. She was no night owl. Yet, here she was, wringing out a few lines. If not now, then when?
The answer is “Whenever you can,” she told herself. There was a time when she wrote whenever she could, whenever a line or two occurred to her. She wrote on napkins, in the margins of notebooks for other things, in moments between classes…In moments between classes – that was how long it had been since she had written regularly. That person, that girl was twenty years past. There had been short periods of time since when she wrote for a few weeks or months, but life or her practical side always eventually shoved creativity back in a dark corner where it would cower until it was nearly forgotten because it didn’t know how to fight for itself.
She looked back at the page and considered Brian. Who was he? What was he doing in Florence, Italy? She decided she would abandon him on the page. She had done that to other characters over the years and felt bad about it. But Brian? She felt nothing for him. He had just wandered into one of her memories. He could just as easily wander back out in to the ether and she could keep that moment in Florence to herself.