*Warning to all authors* You will immediately buy a shredder after reading this. Well, first you will laugh uncontrollably and nod your heads in agreement, then you will run out and buy a shredder.
Since I quit work to write full-time, I’ve been procrastinating (occasionally) on the writing. Also, it was a Sunday and raining non-stop, so I decided to tackle an inside project. I cleaned out my filing cabinet which I’ve had since I left home. I found all kinds of goodies in there.
Who remembers Columbia House? Get 6 cassette tapes for $0.99 and then commit to buy another 4 in the next 2 years. Remember them? No? How about cassette tapes? I found a file for them; in fact, I’m pretty sure I still have the Laura Branigan and Pat Benatar tapes I got from them. I found mortgage documents for my first place – 18 years and 3 homes ago. I found receipts and warranties for beds I no longer have. Then I found receipts and warranties for stuff I do have – like my dual cassette stereo – and that was almost worse. (At least I can still play my Columbia House tapes.)
Then I found my writing files. I’ve saved pretty much everything I’ve written since middle school. That may not have been my best idea. It does reinforce my belief that I’ve done the right thing. This has been my dream forever. Still, the proof comes with a cost. My early stuff is a little… rough. Take this gem, written in my very best penmanship when I was thirteen, on a page titled “Thoughts”.
“If a snake was ten feet long, and it was slithering along and the last foot of its body got caught between two rocks, the other nine feet would have to slither back to get it unstuck. I think it would be very tiring to be a snake.”
I don’t know if I was trying to be funny or profound. Either way, it’s hilarious now.
I have dozens of stories, all of which I quit working on after ten pages or so. I have no idea where I was going with some of them. Some of the stories I do remember, and they suck. But occasionally, I’d stumble over one and remember and go, “Wow, this was a good idea. I could still use it.” Can you imagine remembering a story idea from more than 20 years ago and still finding the core of it to be competent? If I was good enough then to have and articulate solid story ideas, it gives me faith that I can do much better things now.
Except when it comes to poetry. Oh. My. God. That file I shredded, burned, buried, and then I salted the earth. You can’t be too careful when it comes to poetry you wrote when you were a teenager. All I have to say is that most of it rhymed and the meter was pretty consistent. I don’t write poetry anymore. (I recently reread “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I think my talent level is about tied with the Vogons. Also, read the book – it’s awesome!)
I didn’t look through all my old notebooks; that would take days. But they are all in one place now – a treasure trove of future story ideas and proof I’ve improved as a writer. I wonder what my files will look like in another twenty years.