Lessons From The Past

I've been looking through a box containing piles of stories, notes, and random pieces of paper with scribbled ideas, the bare bones of stories. Some of it is over twenty-five years old. I had two immediate observations:

  1. My handwriting has always looked like the scratchings of a chicken on crack.
  2. I wrote some horrible, horrible fiction when I was younger.

On the other hand, all that writing and typing and scribbling seems to have paid off. At least, now, I can look back and say I am a much better writer than I was.

The box is not without a few interesting baubles, a curio cabinet if you will. There is a newspaper article from 1994 about the cutting edge of technology: books on CD-ROM. There is a list of uncommon surnames, presumably to be used for fictional characters:

  • Combitchi
  • Baldasarre
  • Derryberry
  • Scruggs
  • Geisendorfer
  • Sklar

A notecard with a quote from a book I was reading:

"What Kierkegaard failed to recognize is that the untameable daemon, Don Giovanni, is the libertarian daemon of capitalism itself, a system that has persuaded itself that its dynamic economic pursuits are (as Adam Smith taught) self-motivated forces of nature - as if commerce were driven by the animistic spirits found by primitive man in the rocks and trees, deities quite without moral purpose or imputation. And capitalist libertinism encouraged by the necessary destruction of traditional social controls, soon turns into the social and moral libertinism recognized by Mozart and his contemporaries within their own society."
- Nicholas Till, Mozart and the Enlightenment, p. 214

Mozart was part of the 99%?

Or a snippet from a rejection letter from the zine "S.L.U.G.fest":

"The decision [to reject your story] is not based on your 'wordsmanship' or your use of the language, which is actually very good. The problem is that your story line seems to be rather flat and ordinary."

I agree completely. I was trying so often to be a "serious" writer, which meant writing contemporary fiction of ordinary people and their real lives. It was only when I gave up that logic and gave in to the speculative, the strange and illogical, that the stories began to seem interesting and worth telling. Here is a little bit of one of my scribbles:

"People walk and talk as the world caves in, imploding, consuming itself in a bizarre egoistic fetishism, dust covering their insensate minds and burying their banter under time's lieutenants. Reason is on her knees blowing Chaos who cruelly holds a fistful of her hair. Miles of twisted metal and burning flesh propose a different reality to the world that daydreamed in consumerism."

Okay, not exactly a good scribble, but at least it's interesting.

And amongst all the drafts, all the well meaning critiques from my classmates in the creative writing classes, all the chaff and straw and horse shit, I did find one short story that I liked. The dialog is good (I like to think that is a strong point of mine) and I can take the plot, the bare bones, and give it a little speculative twist, save this little bit of fiction dredged up from the past. I'll make it interesting.

So what have I learned?

  1. Write, write, write. Even if it is terrible, horrible, no good, very bad prose.
  2. Sometimes it is better to leave a story unfinished.
  3. Save it all. Later, you might recognize a gem in that very bad prose.
  4. Throw the rest away. Always move forward.
  5. Write, write, write. It bears repeating.