This is going to be a long, meandering, nostalgic post that’s really more of a stream of consciousness than anything.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Only until I was a teenager did I really try to write anything that was particularly long or had any sort of substance to it. I had no outline. I had no synopsis. I had no real desire to publish what I wrote. For me back then, there was only the writing and I went at it with an intensity that bordered on neurosis.
I remember being sixteen. I lived with my father at the time and he worked long hours far away. I was usually home by myself, especially during the summer. I was used to being alone, having been the only child of my mother. I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t lonely. I had endless time and I was going to write a book. I walked up to the nearest gas station, bought a case of Coca-Cola, a pack of pens, and a nice big notebook. I walked back home and began my story, sitting on the couch of the living room.
My father had some kind of Super Cable Package which was completely wasted on me. I never really liked to watch too much TV. But out of the 1000+ channels, there was one that was usually on when I was writing. It was MTVX, the station that actually showed music videos because regular MTV was too busy with their reality shows. And it seemed to specialize in the heavier, metal side of things.
It wasn’t some self-curated, huge-but-narrow playlist where you skipped songs until you heard that one you wanted. No, there really was no control. You took what you got and you were thankful for it. Sometimes you got Suicidal Tendencies and some other times you got Mushroomhead. Sometimes you even got some Apex Twin and that was when it got super-weird.
Looking back, not being able to choose what I listened to saved a lot of time. I wasn’t constantly distracted by finding just what I wanted to hear. I didn’t fiddle around until the conditions were just right. I left it up to the great Spirit of Radio.
Writing directly onto paper was different from writing with a word processor now. With a word processor, you can see with each keystroke what you have gotten wrong. Spellcheck makes those little distracting red squiggles and unless you made up the word yourself, you’re compelled to immediately go back and fix things.
With a notebook, you might not catch a misspelling until you scour what you wrote. With a notebook, you actually get tired as your hand starts to cramp from writing for hours and hours. With a notebook, you weren’t so keen on making corrections because where would put all that? With a notebook, you can get that ink smell and that, my friends, is the finest fragrance aside from old books.
Summer eventually ended and with it went all my free time. I wasn’t able to write as much as I would have liked but God help me if I didn’t try. There were some classes where I could write in my notebook, disguising my frantic writing as diligent note-taking. There were some other classes, like Trigonometry, where I realized I actually had to pay attention. Once I started applying myself, I managed to eventually raise that embarrassing F to a B. But when it was time to go to, say, Physiology it was right back to writing. I ate lunch alone usually and I would spend that time scarfing down some Donut Sticks and writing some more.
Writing during class enabled a kind of focus I can rarely attain today. I wanted to get to the next scene in my head but at any moment I could get caught. I would have to explain what I was doing to the teacher. My notebook full of all of my work would be confiscated and I’d be sent to the principal’s office. Despite all the danger, I regularly managed to write six pages, front and back every day. I never got caught.
It was such a thrill to write when I wasn’t supposed to. I wish I could tap into that desperate fervor today but things are different as a grown-up. I enjoy being an adult much much more than being a kid but there’s always that part of me that longs for those summers and those classes of delinquent writing.