“I’m not going to give you my heart – I need it to live”
Okay…you can stop laughing now (I know I haven’t). That quote doesn’t come from some 14-year-old Justin Bieber super-fan – it’s an approximately 10-year-old quote resurrected from some old account I found on this writing website.
The quote belonged my 14-year-old self. Mine. I wrote that.
Yes, I am ashamed.
There were other fine gems on there too, but this one was the best (and funniest) – I posted over 200 in all, most were song lyrics and quotes from things I’d heard. Evidently, the stuff I came up with on my own were downright awful (but equally hilarious).
A similar thing happened when Dan and I found my old diaries at my parent’s house – they were full of the same teenage-love-angst “I have feelings and no-one understands them” bullshit.
I laugh at them now (I mean, how could you not laugh at things like “guys are supposed to be heartbroken too, but where was your heart when you broke mine?! – oh, sheer horror), but ultimately they were my first real emotional writing experiments – they geared me up for the focus I now have with my writing.
Embarrassing writing crops up for most of us I think – most certainly, I’m not shy at writing anything down that pops into my head, so I’m constantly fighting against gobble-de-gook sentences and things that literally make me cringe. Inevitably as I experimented with my writing through University, I wrote some not-so-good stuff and some good stuff, but out of all the words full of teenage feelings crap came some pretty great stuff – my best short story I wrote in my final year came from one single thought (or phrase!):
“…and dust littered my eyes, blinding me. I smelt the earthen matter and felt the grains of it in my mouth.”
This came from a stream of consciousness piece I wrote in a writing exercise class, and it fuelled a 6,000 word short story that didn’t contain the word ‘and’ (it was for my experimental writing module).
As I’ve become older, I’ve realised something – writing is like fashion. How many old photos have you flicked through as an adult and laughed or cringed at your child-self wearing some awful multi-coloured jumper or extravagant hair style you begged your mother to put you in?
My writing past is much like that – and I suspect for many writers, they feel the same way.
But will it ever end? In ten years’ time (or even 5!) will I look back at the things I’m writing now and think “my god, that’s just awful!?”
I do this with my blog quite often. I haven’t posted on here in a while, yet I might look back and revise old posts to see if I want to keep them and notice blatant bloody spelling mistakes.
For the most part though, I reckon my embarrassing writing days are pretty much behind me. I got out all that teenage emotional babble that comes with falling in ‘love’ and getting your heart ‘broken’ for the first time; that comes with growing up and learning about yourself. I have about 50 or so poems that contain the same spiel, written at a similar time. They’re in a folder deep in my computer’s hard drive somewhere; ‘date modified’ circa 2005.
Regardless, as writers, we need the embarrassment. We need the experimental writing exercises. We need the young emotions to surface and flourish and then fade away, like a garish knitted jumper from your Power Ranger days. This is the process a writer needs to focus their work – to hone and to chip away at the words weighing them down which helps to create a tangible piece of literature.
Sometimes, I look at my experimental writing and I miss being that free with my words, but like my 14-year-old self, my writing has grown, and will continue to grow. And I’ll learn, and sometime’s I’ll cry with laughter and embarrassment.
Perhaps we may never finish a ‘perfect’ piece of work, but I often think that is rather beside the point of writing – don’t you think?