It looks like I’ve come to the point in my writing career that I don’t even remember stuff I’ve written. I cleaned out a file cabinet that I have been putting off for – oh maybe years – and was amazed to find a stack of notebooks and envelopes. These were written under a different name and address – maiden name, parent’s house – so I imagine it’s during college.
This suspicion is confirmed by a notebook. It begins with a page of assignments, but then is followed by pages of goofy choose-your-own-adventure type stories I wrote about my friends and me, while feigning to take notes during college classes. There are a bunch of song lyrics replaced with further adventures of college girls – you know – boys, parties, fun.
Then I find envelopes labeled to publishers or magazines. I don’t even remember hearing many of these names before! Inside are cover letters and articles I printed up on my parent’s crappy old printer. Seeing that they were never mailed, I imagine I was too chicken-shit at the time to actually submit them. I read them and thank God they were never published, the way most writers cringe when they read their earlier work.
Then I ease up a little. Sure, they’re bad, but maybe they were essential for practice. I later published an article on living abroad for one of the publishers I targeted, Transitions Abroad, had two related stories published in the anthology, Europe from a Backpack, and include one of the themes in my book Journey of a Woman Marine. These pages are filled with details I’ve long since forgotten, written from the perspective of a 20-something itching for travel overseas. I scan over the words, “Oh, but I was smitten” and laugh. Was I talking about Paris or the French guy? Does it matter?
Finding all this old crap inspires me to keep working on my new novel, which by the way has a lot of crap so far. Didn’t Anne Lamott write about Shitty First Drafts? This draft is definitely shitty. The only problem is that I keep trying to make it unshitty, instead of keep moving forward to finish the first draft. (Note to self – continue with the crap for now. )
So have any of you had a similar experience finding things you’ve written about and long since forgotten? How about shitty first drafts? Tell me about it.