People intrigue me. A woman sitting in a coffeeshop with a beautiful knit scarf wrapped around her neck, staring off into space… A man sitting at a picnic table in the park on his lunchbreak, watching children play…
What brings people to the places they are? I construct stories in my head to explain them. I give them names and histories and motion, because I can’t help myself. They intersect with me for one moment, and it is in that instant that I want to know them. So I give them a circumstance that forces the genuine, I give them a moment that tears away a lifetime of facades. It is not as cruel as it sounds, sometimes the moments are very beautiful. Humanity is exposed by both our joys and our struggles. We are the most authentic, the most evocative, in those rare moments.
It’s like this- almost every day of their life is a yearbook picture. They comb their hair, tilt their head, and give the same practiced smile they did yesterday. But sometimes, (and oh to even think of it thrills me), there is a candid shot. An unguarded moment of truth, when the worst and best is laid bare. There is a moment that is quintessentially them. They are unaware of our attention, or life is such that they do not care who sees their soul. It is that moment that I ache over as a writer. I am desperate to catch that moment before the poise and control returns, before they hide themselves behind frozen smiles.
I want to write in grand, sweeping flourishes- I want the space between the beginning and the end to be full and substantial, novel-worthy. But it is not. I can never seem to go beyond that one flash of inspiration. That one moment, that one scene- a life condensed and contained within a written photograph. Once it is written, I am satisfied, and I move on, knowing that tomorrow will be just another yearbook picture. I know, I’ve got the one that mattered, the one that tells their story.
I am, on occasion, frustrated. I am not a novelist. I am not a poet. I would not even say I fit the short-story mold. So what am I? And more importantly, what do I do with it? I have a collection of scenes, pieces of people’s lives. I’m not sure how to stitch them together, or even if I should. But they matter, at least to me, and I wish there was some purpose to it all.
Would a writer’s class be the answer? Am I merely stuck where plenty of others have been before?