Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Strange, Rare, and Horribly Wonderful Discovery With a Side of Self-Delusion: A Discourse on the Worth of Meaningless Prose and Forsaken Projects

A week or two ago I decided to clean out my garage.  I waded through totes of rubbish, discarding much.  A few boxes contained things from when I was young lad.  Three yo-yos, still strangely cool.  A tin of ARMY paint.  A plastic recorder.  One well-worn Rubik's cube (that I learned to solve as a freshman in college, though I no longer remember how).  Lots of drawings and super hero cards and drawings of super heroes.  A stack of old writings, from items in my high school portfolio to obscure poetry to absurd fiction.  And, among other things, a box of 3.5" floppy disks.  (FN1)

My computer at work is possibly one of the last one's remaining on the Earth that has a floppy drive still in it.  Back in high school, I thought floppies were super cool.  Cool enough that this box had several floppies in it, and I had no clue what I would find.  So I brought the disks to work and popped them in.  After some system groaning, things finally started working.

Half of them were blank.  One or two had files but would not let me open them.  And then two had some old writings of mine.  Old, as in, from when I was an early teenager old.  Back in eighth grade (I think, give or take a grade) I started writing my first novel.  I pecked out line after line of purely awesome and original fantasy.  The world was not ready for the brilliance of my work.  And so I wrote and wrote, drawing up maps and casting character after character.  My story had unexplainable but logical magic and a magic sword and a simple farmboy and a princess and a Dark Lord (who was actually called Dark Lord), and many other totally original things.  And then one day I ran out of time and forgot about the story.

This story was on the floppy.  It's over 80,000 words.  I called it The Legend of Eli.  I read a few paragraphs and cringed at nearly every word.  How could I, Master of Originality and Wielder of Words, create such trite garbage?  I want to print it out and read through it all, just to see what the heck kind of story I did.  I vaguely remember pieces of what it was about, but very little.  I know it's got plot holes galore, I remember having that problem. 

The sad thing is this story is just one more notch on my very long belt of unfinished tales.  I'm not sure why I struggle to finish stories.  It's not that I don't enjoy writing them.  Lord knows I love to write.  Apparently I always have, evidenced by the stacks of old writings I've found.  (FN2)  And if I didn't love to write, then I wouldn't do it.  It doesn't matter if I'm writing a song or a blog post, there's just something about the way putting words out there makes me feel.  Sure, my true love is fiction, but it's also my bane.

I like to blame it on too much creativity.  My mind is always thinking about the next world to create.  What kind of people will it have?  Or what will the environment look like for these folks?  Once I progress so far, it's like I've got to put to paper (FN3) the tale before I forget it, and then when I start jotting the ideas down, I instead jump ship and explore new waters more.  Am I simple minded?  ADHD?  I don't know, but I don't think I am.

Maybe I get lost in my story.  Perhaps I know where I'm at and where I want to go, but know that I want to explore more before I get there.  If this is the case, then I need to simply tighten up my focus and press on.  No one wants to read a sprawling epic that dawdles for too long before actually doing anything.

Looking back at most of my writings, it's rare to find an actual complete tale.  Do I struggle with the endgame?  Yes, but no.  I struggle to even make it to the end.  The biggest culprit is, of course, the lack of time, but that's used so often that it's a cliché that I can't put stock in.  If I love it, then I'll find time.  True.  But I don't.  For whatever reason, my stories peter out and sit alone on a shelf with the rest of forgotten lore.  They're not masterpieces, nor are they well written, but they're mine.  They're things I've invested time in, yet not enough.  What does it take to get me to finish one?

Somehow I still convince myself to keep writing.  This story will be different.  This one will end.  It will have closure.  I can hear my future self laughing back at my current self now.  (FN4)  Keep telling yourself that, Logan.  The writing machine keeps spinning yarns, but they always keep a-breakin'.  But maybe this time you just might do it.

It's enough to keep me trying.


FN1:  Disk is such an odd word.  I almost always use disc, but with a floppy, it seems like it's disk, with a K.  I'm not sure if there's really a difference in the English language.
FN2:  I must have always been odd.  Most of my stories are completely absurd, posing ridiculous situations or juxtaposing things that ought not be juxtaposed.
FN3:  Okay, I don't literally write on paper.  Most of my writing is done via Google Documents.  Rarely do I use paper and pen for writing, though there are extenuating circumstances.
FN4:  Like FN3, I can't literally hear this, though if I did I would be perplexed.


Jay Belt said...

By pure random happenstance, I also wrote a book while I was in high school(though it wasn't fantasy, it was...actually I don't think there's a genre for it. Adult YA would be the closest I could think. And by Adult YA, I don't mean YA fiction like Harry Potter that is written for YA but adults like it. I mean young adult themed stories that are so course and vulgar that it could only be displayed on adult shelves and as far away from young readers eyes as possible. And not erotic, just vulgar.)

Wow... Longest parenthesis ever. Where was I? Oh, I wrote a book and it was 80,000 words. Coincidence???? Well, yes, it is. But still it made me smile. It was also saved on floppy disK.

I liked the footnotes.

Anonymous said...

i have floppy disKs but nothing to open them on...all those great works lost!! --- actually, i will read things from two years ago and cringe.. and i, too, have an inability to finish anything other than a short story (but then i will edit those maybe twice and set them aside).... i have determined to set aside the few i think are the best and finish them. one in particular the daughter keeps asking is good to have cheerleaders/collaborators.

i wrote a play in the fourth grade, cast it, directed and starred in it.. what was my teacher letting me do. i get embarrassed just thinking about it. glad we moved away shortly thereafter.

the act of writing makes me happy, too. mentally healthy happy.


logankstewart said...

@Jay: Wow. Adult YA, huh? Interesting. And anyone that uses "random happenstance" instantly reminds me of Dr. Horrible, and I, too, smile.

@L: Just something about those old writings, eh? Glad you could cringe, but more so glad that writing makes you happy. Me, too, and it's great!

Kristopher A. Denby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristopher A. Denby said...

Dude, it's weird and approaching the supernaturally coincidental how alike we are. Some of the stuff you write seems to nearly parallel my life.

About 2 months ago (before I was laid off) I was digging through some stuff in the attic while doing some general cleaning there and in the garage, and I ran across some of my stories from 7th and 8th grade and on up. I also found a floppy disk that I knew contained old writing. I was so excited to read them!

First I had to fix the disk. The metal sliding thingy was bent, and I had to carefully replace it with the metal sliding thingy from another disk. After that I was ready.

Kristopher A. Denby said...


I took the disk to work because we had the oldest computers and I thought I could find a floppy drive, but I came up short. Then I remembered my old PC in the attic, and I dared to wonder if the thing would actually turn on after sitting up there in the 120 degree summer heat.

But it did work, and much to my dismay, the disk didn't contain nearly as much of my old writing as I'd hoped for. It was fun to read some of it, and uncomfortable to read most of it. I was hoping to find an epic fantasy story that I'd started (which is weird because I didn't read fantasy back then--but I think I was inspired by The Highlander and the old Conan films) about a man called Kiilskiin Braaskiin. I know. I know. He was a swordsman and he was always fighting some bad guy called The Donavan. There were plenty of pseudo-Celtic names and references, lots of sword play, and a cliched revenge plot. It had all the trappings of youthful mimicry, and it was probably really awful. I really wish I still had a copy of it!

I did manage to dig up a Star Wars story that I started called The Nemesis, and it was actually not that bad. Not bad at all. I really think that I did a fair job of capturing the essence of the original characters, and it's something that I've often thought about retooling and finishing simply as a piece of fan fiction. Who knows. Maybe one day, eh?

logankstewart said...

@Kris: It's pretty cool that we've so much in common. Fascinating, too, that your PC actually booted up.