At two, I wrote my first book. It was a children’s book, and it was a story about a hero and a villain—all other details remain secret. By six, I had read the first “Harry Potter” book and knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life spinning words into ideas and characters. When I was twelve, I became especially serious about creative writing, as my Honors English class largely demanded its students to write short stories and poems. My literature class (Yes, in my middle school, these were different class periods with different teachers.) taught me how to critically evaluate creative writing. It taught me what it means to be influenced. In middle school, I learned that fiction is at its finest when it is grounded in your reality. You write what you know.
In the decade since middle school, I’ve departed from that philosophy a bit. Of course, I still write about what I know. The majority of my stories take place in Detroit because that’s where I grew up. Most of my characters have read a lot of different books because I have read a lot of different books and so have my closest family members and many of my friends. But I’ve deviated from my exact reality from time to time. I’ve discovered that it’s actually good for me.
At the ages of twelve, thirteen, and fourteen years, I couldn’t have fathomed such a concept. I might have tried to entertain it, but I couldn’t have executed it. And clearly, based on the content of this flash drive purchased and loaded up in the year of our Lord, 2009, I didn’t. I wrote what I wanted. I wrote all the time—even more than I do currently, and that’s saying something. I wrote stories and blurbs about what was actually going on in my life that were so thinly veiled, I cringed going back over the files. There’s a reason that laptop is deep in the depths of my parents’ basement, kids. It’s humiliating.
But, in true Blue fashion, I’ve decided to bring that humiliation to light. On the Internet. Where anyone can see it. I see no reason why I should be too embarrassed of the writer I was in seventh and eighth grade. After all, I was writing, which is more than “Game of Thrones” fans can say for George R.R. Martin, I think. So, without further delay, here are the five most revealing contents on that flash drive. Enter at your own risk.
1. A Novella about a Girl Who Was Obsessed with S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” and the Film Adaptation of That Book
I’ve probably already admitted to my seventh-grade obsession with “The Outsiders,” which included both the 1967 YA novel and the 1983 film. Actually, I’m not embarrassed by it. As I would discover upon countless image searches for scenes from the film, there were plenty of young ladies around my age who felt the same way. I just didn’t know any of them in my real life. There was really nobody for me to talk to about my strange crush on Matt Dillon as Dallas Winston or that scene in which Sodapop Curtis (Rob Lowe) comes out of the shower. So, in order to cope with my lonely fan girl’s soul, I wrote a book about a girl in seventh grade who meets another girl in seventh grade, and they like all of the same things, including (What else?) “The Outsiders.” Might be the most terrible thing I’ve ever written. I almost remember writing it and having a good time, too, which is just… disturbing.
(This was an actual photo I had saved to my very first laptop. I cringe.)
2. Two Sentences of What I Can Only Imagine Was the Start to a “Harry Potter” Fan Fiction
I’m serious. I don’t know what this was supposed to be. It has the phrase “looked like James” in it, but other than that, it’s pretty vague. The only reason I’m saying I think it might have been the rough start to a “Potter” fic is that “Potter” has always run through my veins. If a nameless “he” looks like some man named James, I really don’t know who else that could be. Shame on me for not finishing it. But also, kudos to me for not finishing it? It’s complicated.
3. A Twitter Parody for a Character That Was Probably Just Supposed to Be MeThere aren’t enough words in the English language or any others to describe how humiliated I was to find this document on my old flash drive. There were “tweets” about things that had actually happened to me throughout the course of my eighth-grade year, but none of them had my name attached to them. Actually, the name of the character had a name so similar to my own that I’m embarrassed to share it here. I understand that I wanted to document those moments from my last year of middle school, especially since I still think that was one of the most fun years of secondary school I had. But the real question is… why didn’t I just actually join Twitter and post about those things there?
When I think about it, the answer is relatively clear. I was in eighth grade before Twitter really exploded with young teenagers, especially the young teenagers in my particular school. My classmates had found Facebook, which I also didn’t join because my mother convinced me that it was the devil. I must have found the Twittersphere alluring somehow… but not enough to sign up for it; just enough to create a weird word document where I pretended to have it. I can’t explain it, but by God, I want to.
4. Something Marked "My Private and Personal Journal Part 2" That Had Been Locked with a Password
I didn’t remember the password. I’m so thankful.
5. A Playlist Marked “100 Songs,” but There Were Only 71
Okay, so I know what happened there. I was going to make a playlist of 100 songs, but I got bored, called for dinner, or something else that happens to fourteen-year-olds the summer before they enter high school. Somewhere in between my computer trips, I forgot about this playlist. That’s not the funny part. The funny part is how ridiculous the selections were. Sure, there were some winners. Lots of Beatles songs—deep tracks, too, not just “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for me. I think Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was there. But mixed in with these beautiful songs were songs like “What I’ve Been Looking For” from the “High School Musical” soundtrack and “Trainwreck” from Demi Lovato’s debut album, “Don’t Forget.” Who made this playlist? A freak-type person. A freak-type person who still shopped at Delia’s.
The other hilarious part about this playlist is that there doesn’t appear to be any point to it. Was I trying to weirdly serenade my one-year-below-me-in-school crush? Maybe. Was I just bored with the terrible stories I was writing and needed to focus on something else? Perhaps. It will remain a mystery. In truth, I’m pretty glad that the playlist doesn’t have any commentary. I remember some of the commentary that I would write on playlists back then. It was over-emotional, usually featured an extreme misinterpretation of the lyrics simply to fit my personal situation, and altogether creepy. Those are the kind of words I would not like to relive.
(This is an example of a classic Delia's t-shirt, circa 2008. I didn't actually own this one, but really, I might as well.)
Perhaps I’m a little embarrassed of the stories and lists I found on this old flash drive. The content is pretty dorky. But in an unusual way, I’m proud of this material. Through humiliating emotions and terrible, clichéd, un-thought-out plotlines, I learned how to be a decent writer. I just never gave up. This flash drive is the evidence of my perseverance. And that’s pretty freaking cool. What’s not cool, however, is my early-teenage self. I mean, why did I think anyone would be interested in reading a book about a girl who was obsessed with other books? Don’t talk to me about “The Eyre Affair”—this was nothing like that.