Just for the fun of it, here are some rare examples of notes, original drafts, and practice pieces that I’ve literally jotted down. As you read it, you’ll find material that was added written in superscript, like this, and material that was deleted
stricken out, like this.
Ghost of past, or passed, or … whatever
First, here is the “icebreaker exercise” I did for Drama 30, the playwriting class. In this age of trigger warnings, I think you should know: It is sophomoric (even though I was a junior), and it makes light of alcohol abuse (no surprise for a college junior).
It is also embarrassingly bad. You’ve been warned.
THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PASSED
(Time: 3 AM Christmas Eve.
Place: RIP MARSHALL’s apartment. There are obvious signs of a party around the place–empty or half-empty plates and glasses, disarrayed furniture; the Christmas tree is listing heavily to one side, etc. But most obvious of all is the bar, covered with drained bottles and half-empty glasses. At the base of the bar are remnants of a wall made of piled beer cans–remnants, for we find RIP lying on the floor, passed out among the remainder.
Enter the GHOST: His face a sickly green, all else deathly pale. He is weighed down by chains of beer cans, zip-tops, corkscrews, etc.)
Awake, Rip Marshall!
Rip Marshall, I want to ask you a question.
(Pointing with a weak hand.)
Down the hall, first door on the left.
Look at me, Rip Marshall.
Leave me alo—
Look at me!
Good Lord! Who are you ? You weren’t invited. Look, if you’re crashing this party, everyone’s gone—
Shut up, Rip Marshall.
You look like I feel.
Silence! Why do you continue this foolish behavior?
Who are you , anyway?
In life I forged these chains that fetter me now. I come to warn you of the punishments of overindulgence.
(Looking at bottles on bar.)
Ohhh. Well, if I can get back to sleep, you won’t be around in the morning … will you? No, of course not. You’re just a bad dream, a bit of undigested peanut or something. All I have to do is clear my head—
And how long will that take? An hour? All morning? All day? No, Rip Marshall, I am with you always, even to the end of your daze. You must give up drinking like that or suffer the consequences in the morning.
(Struggles up from behind bar, pours a little water from a pitcher, drops
in white fizzy tablets a capful of Bromo-Seltzer.)
No, you’re just a figment of my imagination. And you’ll fizzle away as quickly as this does.
None of that
fizzy trash effervescence can help you now. Nothing you drink today can make up for what you drank last night. Try it.
All right, I will. Bottom’s up! Here’s looking at you kid!
(He drinks and gags on it.)
Come with me, Rip Marshall.
(Belches and opens his eyes.)
Oh, God–still here?
Remember the night you mixed gin, vodka, scotch, wine and chili in one celebration? How did you feel the next day?
And I haunted you that morning when you woke up in the hedges outside that dorm at Holyoke.
Don’t remind me.
The nights you spent making your bed in the first door on the left?
And I last visited you that night you mistook the vodka they gave you for water–and guzzled a glassful.
No–please! You’re making me sick.
Think, Rip Marshall. Aren’t you making yourself sick?
Oh–I don’t feel well.
That will pass, Rip Marshall. When you do.
I’ll never touch another drop again. I swear!
Then you no longer need me.
Ohhhh—never again. I’ll never throw a party like this again–I’ll never touch another drop.
Remember those words, Rip Marshall, and we need never meet again.
Never again. No more Christmas parties. But
I’ll be ready for just wait ’till New Year’s Eve. Cheers!
(He passes out again.)
— END —
And here are two examples from the Wind∼Word session I blogged about earlier. When I stopped and said “my writing is terrible,” the photo may give you an idea how right I was. There wasn’t any real prompt for this piece, just to enjoy the moment and start writing when we felt like it.
Here’s what I wrote, complete with strikeouts:
The last weekend of summer, despite the back-to-schoolDespite the back-to-school quietude of the end of the tourist season, the traffic is heavy in busy Burlington harbor. Kayakers paddle in quartets and paddle-boarders venture like
egrets storks across the water posing ch challenging the skippers of larger vessels as they make their way past the breakwater
The tiny craft are a challenge to navigation
, but the power as the sailors wind their way against the wind. But the larger challenge is the power craft — some small, buzzing like mosquitos, and ignoring the no-wake rules, leaving the kayakers and boarders awash in their wake.
Sailors know the tacking, turning paths they must take around the vessels moored in the harbor. They know not to disrupt the others at the mercy of the winds.
Perhaps that’s why the larger sailing vessels, out for a day or perhaps seeking a new harbor for the night, slide out to the center lake under power.
Or perhaps the power is what they prefer.
Here’s one that’s a mashup of columns I’ve done and my National Novel Writing Month experience last year. The prompt was to think about origin stories and times when we acted before our inner editor could jump in, and had to face the consequences:
Believe it or not, I once wrote a novel.
I’d My origins as a writer date back to high school. I took I found myself in my inner voice in creative writing class. I wrote dripping satires of high school life — Chaucerian sketches of the teachers and administration and my rivals. That sort of thing.
It was fun.
I showed them to my father — a very down-to-earth businessman who thought my fluency with language would lead me to a career in law, perhaps, or politics.
He read through them, slid his reading glasses down his nose, and peered at me over the frames.
“Tell you what,” he said. “Go out and get some life experiences. Then you’ll have something to write about.”
So I followed his advice — college, career, family,
bring-home-the-bacon good provider, wordsmith and style guardian for a newspaper. Though this fed my need to work with words, I was telling other people’s stories.
I wasn’t telling my own.
Still, my Dad recognized
my int that I was making a living using my skills, and owned up some 20 years later that “maybe there was something to this writing thing after all.” Th I kept the fiction thing clamped down for most of my career. It takes time. It takes discipline. It takes concentration. It takes privacy. It takes peace of mind.
It takes lots of coffee.
And then last
year October, I saw a reference to something called National Novel Writing Month, which was November. The challenge is to write a short 50,000-word novel in the 30 days that are bookended by holiday preparations and end-of- yearseason, end-of-year life duties.
The only way to meet the challenge is to dive in, pace yourself, and keep writing, not look back, not rewrite, not self-edit, just
keep going forward press on toward the mark.
For a month, I sequestered myself in a makeshift office, away from family and friends, coming out only to carve the Thanksgiving turkey.
And then it was done. I hit the 50,000-word mark (50,800 if I remember correctly) with a complete beginning, middle and end, with conflict, humor, characters.
It was fun.
I’d conquered my inner editor and overcome my father’s fine fatherly advice.
I’d done it! I’d met the challenge, learned from the experience, created a world that I’d been keeping in the back of my mind for 30 years.
Then I zipped it into a file and tucked it into a folder in a directory and never opened it again.