My primary obstacle was my inability to understand her motivation for writing. The first thing we learned was how she would hide away the things she wrote as opposed to sharing them. That didn't click with me; writing is hard! Why wouldn't you want everyone to see what you had done? What was the point of doing something if no one would ever see it? What was the point of creativity without consumption? With that in my stubborn adolescent skull, I was poised to dislike anything of hers I read.
And I did. I quibbled, I nitpicked, I just didn't get any of it at all.
Fast forward to yesterday, a dozen years or so after my first encounter with Ms. Dickinson. I'd not really thought much about her since then. I'm having a conversation with a player about one of my recent gaming sessions, pertaining to a valuable item they had discovered and and all the hooks and ideas I had connected to it.
The player asks me with honest concern. "What if we just sell the thing? Doesn't that invalidate the thought you've put into it?"
Well no, of course not I said. I could always use it for something else. Besides, it had been fun to come up with.
And then he asked "Do you just enjoy creating campaign stuff? Like, even if no one ever really sees it?"
Well of course I do. My closet has a pile of spiral note books in it from all my past campaigns, those fulfilled and aborted. And I could talk all day about any one of them. There's Zwietorhiem, both literally and figuratively a city of two gates where both the living and the dead reside. There is Awesome City, a bay-side metropolis that was perpetually stuck in 1994 and intended for my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. There are at least four settings from my D&D 3.5 days alone. Many of them only half used, or worse, totally unseen by anyone but me.
And then came the epiphany. This was just something I loved and wanted to do, and probably always will be. I finally get Emily Dickinson.
Now, I'm not comparing myself to her really. I can't know how she felt about her own writing. But I totally understand why someone would put something they found beautiful on a page and be OK with simply tucking it under their bed and never mentioning it again.