The Abbreviated History of (my) Writing
I don’t remember the first time I wrote something for the fun of writing it, but I do remember my first ever Haiku.
“A red flower seen
by a yellow bumble bee
soon had no pollen”
Third grade baby! Now that has all the elements of great poetry.
I do remember the first time I tried to write anything resembling a story. I was around 11, full of dreams of becoming a famous author and since I was 11, science fiction was my ticket to fame and glory. “The Ice Planet Adventures” was destined to become the epic sci-fi tale of the decade. It had all the elements of fantastic fiction: Strong characters with moral dilemmas, an ever evolving young love, random death and destruction where no person was safe. Here is a lovely photo of the first page, complete with bad handwriting and horrible spelling.
I used the actual names of friends and crushes, thinking I would never share this with anyone. I was surprised how cathartic it was. Like most kids, I had good and bad moments with friends. The ones I was currently mad at, didn’t make it out of the first three pages. I mercilessly tortured, burned and shot whoever I wanted. It was my first experience with the freedom writing could provide. I have since murdered, beaten up or severely wounded lots of people who represent all or part of someone I know. Am I supposed to reveal that? Is it a writers secret? I doubt it.
This fine story moved on in the second part to become a screenplay, then back to a narrative. It is very lazy writing, full of cliche and bad metaphor, but I am surprised at the creative thread. It is actually a good idea, if not have been already done to death.
I didn’t write much fiction after this piece until I was a sophomore and wanted to write myself into love stories. I was smart enough to give myself a different name and try to disguise the love interest a bit. As is still typical of my writing, the protagonist never quite gets what he wants and often is bitterly disappointed. Strange how I couldn’t even give myself success in my writing. I was very good at deifying the girls I had crushes on. So much perfect this and perfect that.
It was about this time I discovered I liked writing poetry. This high school stuff is classically bad, but all the ladies seemed to like it. It was over the top melancholy, so passionate(ly bad) and full of raw emotion. Here is a small sample, copied out with slashes for line breaks:
Still– Why me?/ I don’t understand./Of everyone/ and everything/ you had to choose from,/ why me? / The darkness/it keeps me awake,/thoughts of you/fill my head,/they keep sleep from me/entirely./I want to ask you/I need to understand./Where are the words/to end the confusion./the sky grows light/and still I am awake.
Oh boy! Full of self deprivation, which was so sexy, right? While there is so much to hate about this poetry, I really do miss being able to just pour them out. I used to date all my work, and sometimes I would write seven or more in a day. I miss being able to, even if poorly, throw my emotions out. In many ways, writing is the most difficult thing I do every day. It may sound over the top, but it is physically draining. It takes all of my effort and patience to compose anything anymore.
Poetry was very good for me. As I got better at it, became more able to express myself in less words, better words, better images, writing became a sanctuary. When I was struggling with events or experiences, writing was the way I got through them. Often it was how I made sense of my life. I wrote earlier about journal writing and how I wished I had more of those day to day things to read. I reference a part of my LDS mission where I didn’t want to document the emotional difficulty I was having and while I do wish I had more explicit memories of that time, I do have the poetry I wrote. When I read it I can feel those old emotions. I am surprised how while I was writing, without knowing it, I was leaving myself glimpses of understanding. Some of that poetry offered clever insights that I still value today.
Really, that is what writing is to me: A way to understand my own experiences. I began writing just for me then I wrote to be told how clever I was. Then I wrote for myself again, spending years sharing with no one. Now I still write for me, but I also like to share. I try not to think I have wisdom others don’t already have, though I do think it is through sharing my experiences that I connect with others. I have come to understand that when you strip out the details of an experience, what remains is a more universal moment, something most of us have experienced and understand. I love to leave them incomplete, open to interpretation.
If I have any talent at all, it is for telling these incomplete stories. They are best when they avoid judgement, when they just are. I hope they connect on some level with a part of people that understands that naked experience, the event itself. I hope I am still getting better. I hope I have much more to share and to tell. I really do appreciate anyone who reads them.
One thing I do miss. Someone to critique them in their early forms. I once thought writing should have two parts: Throwing it up on the page, then making that page cleaner. I might still think that but without a consistent external editing voice, I find myself unable to just write it out. I edit as I go, which is a slow, slow process.
If anyone wants the job, I am good at reciprocation. Plus, I would love, love, LOVE to discuss ideas on writing. Please comment or talk to me in person. I miss sharing.