I’ve been working, the past few months, on my writing – on the thing I love more than most anything, the thing I depend on to interpret and explain the world around me, the thing that becomes almost burdensome (that becomes actual work) when neglected and over-thought. I’m still in the midst of a semi-permanent affair with the short story, but have found myself drifting quite naturally towards a mangled, skeletal version of prose poetry, as well as testing the flash fiction/short short waters. I’ll confess to struggling with keeping a consistent schedule, with fretting over the imperfect written results of ideas that are perfect in my head (which often leads to abandoning the idea altogether), with motivation and laziness and most importantly, with inspiration. I get all tangled up in this “what the heck am I going to write about” mentality and end up not writing anything. For days. Weeks. And if I step back and examine the effects of “not writing”, of not creating and exploring and imagining and nurturing this thing I love…they are severe.
Back to the lack of inspiration issue: I’ve realized/become aware it’s actually a non-issue. I simply use it as an excuse, a justification for not writing. Which is such a waste and such a lie, when stories stare me down daily, begging to be written. I see them everywhere, everyday, and think “there’s a story” or “I should write about that, about him or her, about this place“. And I collect little ideas and moments in a nice neat pile, until the pile grows to an overwhelming height and topples into a cluttered jumbled heap. And nothing is written.
I’m fumbling my way slowly towards change; towards a place where I create and share and connect with others, with an underlying hope that we’ll walk away gripping a better understanding of the world and the things we see and feel while we’re part of it. Sharing alone is a step, for me…a toe dipped cautiously in an icy lake, a timid invitation extended to an acquaintance, a hesitant departure down a path whose end cannot be seen.
Arriving at “the point”…inspiration has been everywhere for me, recently. Just watching: people giving and receiving directions on a crowded street. People sharing things: passing plates during meals, huddling under a single umbrella. People running when they shouldn’t be, after buses, through stores, down stairs…wanting an explanation for the overwhelming excitement or fear propelling them forward at such an unnatural speed. People falling asleep (or fighting to stay awake) in public places…slipping into such a vulnerable, pure state amongst strangers.
And the tiniest woman, who sat across from me on a late-night bus. She sat so still, so close to the window, clutching a single pink rose in a plastic shell, the kind you’d grab as an after-thought from the grocery store check-out line. But the way she held it, you’d think it were the last rose in the world, the most precious item anyone could possess. The biggest black plastic-framed glasses balanced on her nose, swallowed most of her face. Her hair was short and neat and gray, her mouth a small thin line resting above her chin. She wore black; a simple black coat, with simple black knit gloves covering her hands and simple black shoes dusted white with street salt dangling just above the ground. She’d fixed her gaze straight ahead ages ago and held it there, calm, patient, determined. Her eyes would close gently now and then, her only detectable movement. We rode together for ten minutes, and I realized that during that short time I’d built up the highest hopes for her. I left the bus hoping so hard that the recipient of that pink rose, which had suddenly become the sweetest most thoughtful gesture I could imagine, would gush with gratitude, would thank her and draw her in and hold her tight. Hoping so hard that she wasn’t lonely, that she wasn’t mourning but celebrating something, anything…hoping her stillness and silence was a temporary shield from the outside world, a shell she’d shed as soon as she encountered a familiar face. I was surprised, at how affected I was by an unassuming ordinary stranger, at the lump in my throat I forced down quick. And in my confusion I was reminded that I have a way to explore these moments, a way to dissect and rebuild and interpret them to see what’s lurking just below their surfaces. I was reminded that writing really isn’t an option or a choice, for me; it’s a need. I must write.
Anticipating and hoping that occasionally sharing moments like these, that forcing myself to craft sentences and attribute language to images and emotions, will nudge me along that path, that road carefully paved with story after story, whose end I cannot yet see.