There was a moment when I was growing up that I will never forget. We were at my Granny Campbell's house in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I was in trouble for something, I forget what. I always seemed to be in trouble. I think we were late for a ‘do’ and I wasn’t ready. My mother was haranguing me about it. I was paying very little attention. I had something far more important on my mind. I said, because I very genuinely wanted to know, not because I was being sarcastic, “What’s it like to be inside your skin, Mom?”
It didn’t go down well.
It was the wrong question, at the wrong time. But, I’m serious; I really wanted to know what being inside her skin would be like. Yes, I am well aware that sounds a little creepy – very Silence of the Lambs type stuff – which was not even remotely where I was going with it at the time, or now I hasten to add.
Looking back, I can see that was one of those moments which hinted at my future. After all, what is a writer but someone who can get into the skin, into the mind of their characters and then see with their eyes, speak with their voices, feel with their toes? If we do it well enough, our readers will come crashing up against the characters and we, as writers, disappear completely.
The skin question was just one of the thoughts that rattled around my brain…I was going to say as a child, but it’s never stopped. Now, I rattle them with delight because they’re the questions that make me who and what I am. They are what send me on rabbit trails of delightful investigation to bring both reality and imagination to my work. They are what, hopefully, makes me a good writer.
Nearly all my life, my mind has run on very different paths to others around me. The things that captivate others hold little, if any interest for me. It probably explains why I didn’t have many friends growing up and why my parents didn’t get me at all. My father, poor man, still struggles with the fact that I’ve never had a ‘real’ job. But then he was a banker. Bankers aren’t known for their imagination. The very word is enough to set his false teeth rattling.
That’s why, when I see pictures like this, I feel an inordinate sense of relief. Someone, somewhere gets me. They can see inside my head and it delights them. And that makes me smile because knowing that, means imagination, more specifically my imagination, is a good place to live.
Stand back! I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it!