My own work: 13-17

As a part of the Creative Influences theme, I am also reviewing my own work. This will be in three phases: high school, college and a little bit after, and my adult life.

January 1, New York: There’s nothing quite so mortifying as going back through your old work. I decided that if I was going to re-visit the media that influenced me, I should also look at the result of that influence. (I also apparently think I don’t already have enough work to complete just the 150 works, to add more to it.)

I went through the old folder, deep in my computer archives, where I collected everything from high school until just after college. My journal used to be typed and it’s all there in a single document. Lists of phone numbers, ideas, quotes, and media to consume (still haven’t read A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift). Documents with titles like “Songs to play at my own funeral” and “Presidential policy ideas”. Long-term planning, there. Amidst all that I tried to pick out the representative work: short stories, an essay, and one play. I couldn’t even bring myself to open the poetry.

A One-Act Play
Probably the most mature and complete work in here is a one act play I wrote called “The Son of the Son”. It takes places after the death of Jesus and posits that he, Jesus, fathered a child with Mary Magdalene. The child grows up to take on the mantle of his movement, make it about political power, and then accept the emperorship of Rome. The twist is that he chooses the name Nero for himself— that’s revealed at the end at his coronation. (Twist!) It’s not bad… the dialogue is a bit stilted (“the way they talked in the olden days”, I guess) and I wish I could have had the patience to actually triple-check the spelling before submitting it to competition. But the concept is strong and the characters relatively true. There is a ton here that needs to be better, but this is the one work from this period that captures a true, complex emotion and teases it out. At seventeen, I felt abandoned by a father who it seemed like was being lionized in his death. I would have denied it at the time, but it drips from these lines of dialogue.

Short Stories
I really thought of myself as a strong writer at this time. I was cocky about it. I unsuccessfully submitted my work to be published everywhere I could find. I wish now that I’d held that back. This was a painful collection to re-peruse. Mostly, I either wrote vignettes of men ten years my senior experiencing emotions I’d never experienced (the death of a wife, for instance) or I wrote vaguely fable-like sarcastic stories. This latter wasn’t half bad, if immature. There was a story in there about the serpent in the Garden of Eden that seemed like a paler imitation of Mark Twain, but not entirely condemnable. Not like the rest. The only other story with a tiny bit of merit is also funny, something I wrote in a single night as a joke with my best friend Chris about a girl who liked him. It is totally unfair to the girl, but it’s the only one with anything near the truth. This is the only story about being a teenager.

Essays
I only re-read one of my old high school essays— about Immortality, the book that began the 33 Project. In it, I explored the idea that Kundera and Agnes are the nuclei of two bonded atoms— his in the real world and hers, the fictional. It’s not perfect (I also strayed into mathematics and physics) but I see here the yearnings to write better non-fiction. To explore with essays instead of stick to formula.

What’s missing
Truth is, this is where I am finally butting up against format availability. On all 150 works I’ve been able to find some way to get to them, even though sometimes difficult. With my own, not everything was preserved with forward compatibility in mind. The written work is in a version of Microsoft Word no longer recognized by Microsoft Word. We were able to come to an agreement in TextEdit. But what’s missing here is my earliest video work: four short movies we produced for my high school video production class. I co-wrote and starred in all four, and they all won the competition for which they were made. Retrieving these (I know who has them on DVD) will be a project for the future. Archiving all of my own work will have to be a project to tackle with an eye toward the 66 Project.

Nothing to buy here.

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