I am going to publicly embarrass myself.
I decided to be a writer in elementary school, and by the time I was in high school, I was prolific. There was no emotion or reality in my fiction, though. Being a loner, it was easy to spend lots of time writing. I created worlds far from my own. As a teenager, I wrote about teenagers. But not teenagers like me. My characters were wild, drove fast cars, drank booze, and took drugs.
Here’s what is even more embarrassing, though: as I grew older and moved from place to place, I kept a couple of boxes of my “early writings,” dragging them with me. I didn’t go back to read them. They were my origin story. I kept thinking, once I become very popular, these will be a valuable contribution to some university’s collection.
I should have read the pieces. They are misshapen, badly flawed, wrong lengths (a 24-page novel, a 30-page screenplay) and straight-up stupid. A character does not drive wildly down he street, screaming, “Somebody shoot me up with some dope!” Or a 13-year-old in school shouting, “Give me some booze! I need my booze!” It was like I was writing while on an acid trip about teenagers having acid trips. It was like a new show called ABC Afterschool Special Gone Wild.
There is a sadness to these pieces. They are not all stories. Some are songs, because I could read music and wrote it. I even started a full orchestra arrangement of the song “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I drew some of my characters. I drafted the layout of their houses. I drew maps of the towns where they lived.
There is also solitude to these pieces. I remember living in these dream worlds where I was g-d, creating people, their actions and futures. It was so different than my own pitiful life at the time: being a misfit, being mistreated, stuck in a rural town with a lot of small minds. No wonder I wanted to escape. Later, I actually did. But I am grateful I had the chance to escape, at least in my mind, during all those tough years. I’m thankful I had the inventiveness to write, to live in other “worlds” of my own making for comfort.
It’s hard to admit I was saving these writings because I thought someday, people would want to read every word I’ve written–unpublished pieces, horrible first drafts, stupid childhood stuff. Who wants that? No one.
This week I burned all the whole pile: drug stories, half-baked tunes, never-gonna-make-it teenage screenplays, and all the other crap from those early years. I do not need those boxes and burdens. I feel lighter.
Thank you, early writing, for being my escape when I needed it.
Thank you, self, for finding your path.
And I thank myself now, for having the maturity to understand I write not only for me, but for you. That is what makes true success.