Return of the Writing Pile

A little more than two years ago, I wrote about how, in the twenty years since I graduated college, I have written a lot but actually never considered myself a Writer. Much of that has to do with the lack of formally published works, which I could blame on gatekeeping if I ever actually stepped up to the gate. But twenty years of steady blogging and nearly a decade of regular podcasting has to count for something, right?*

My pile of creative writing journals and podcast notebooks.

Even if it does, I still find myself struggling with the whole idea of “writer/podcaster”, especially when it comes to people outside the walls of my podcasting circle knowing about it. While I am sure my colleagues, friends, or family can find, have found, have read, or listened to my stuff, I am very reluctant to mention any of it, as if I do it entirely in secret. A lot of that comes from fear of reprisal left over from the early days of blogging and social media. I sat in meetings where faculty and staff were being told to watch what we say; I had students who I am sure would dox me if they wanted to. Granted, times have changed, and circumstances have changed as well, but the residue of such a toxic work environment remains, and I guess I figure that if I am quiet enough about it, I can hide in plain sight.

Which is ironic, by the way, considering I had two teacher blogs for the better part of a decade, something that will get its own post someday.

When reflecting on all of this, though, I can’t help but think of these lines from Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away”: “she says ‘a good day ain’t got no rain/on a bad day’s when I lie in bed and think about what might have been’.” And looking at my writing pile, there is a lot of “what might have been.”

So … this post is … a trip through the road of writing regret and another lament about how I have no real drive or hustle?

Well, I don’t want to really go down that road because it’s a dead end and I just wind up feeling shitty about myself. Trust me, I’ve done it many times. Instead, I thought I’d be more constructive. I grabbed my unwritten pile and decided to do a “Keep or Scrap” evaluation. Now, there’s enough in here for what could probably be a slow burn series of posts, but a “rip the Band-Aid off” approach is what I’d rather take. So here is what is in a pile of notebooks that were on the dresser in my guestroom; specifically, pages that were bookmarked with Post-It tabs, meaning that I wrote down an idea, some notes, or a draft and had intended on coming back to them later.**

“Scars and Vulnerability” (creative writing journal, 2/2/16). A draft of an essay that I believe got folded into other blog posts as well as episode 110 of Pop Culture Affidavit. Marked Done.

“Having ‘The Talk’ With My Son” (creative writing journal, 5/5/16). An attempt at a spoken word poem that starts off with what it might be like to explain to a five-year-old the difference between the Marvel and DC super hero action figures in his toybox and then gets into heavier thoughts about bullying, being oneself, and the worry I have about projecting my own insecurities onto my kid. It was a good cathartic exercise and fun to try to write spoken word, but best left in the past. Scrap.

“Late to the Game” (creative writing journal, 1/10/17). An abandoned podcast idea where Amanda I would talk about pop culture that we never got around to. Yunno, like finally watching a movie that was popular several years ago because we were watching Yo Gabba Gabba! or Thomas and Friends on a regular basis. I could never really get the idea to fully work and we moved on to other, more interesting things. Scrap.

A list of TV movies and educational films for PopAff posts or episodes. (creative writing journal, early 2017). I have written about maybe one or two already, and have notes for drafts on others. It’s a good list and seeing it made me want to start Googling. Decided to transfer the list to another sheet of paper that I stuck in the folder pocket of my current creative writing journal. Keep.

Notes on a Post-It for about “No One is to Blame” by Howard Jones. (creative writing journal, 5/15/17). I’m surprised that I haven’t written this already considering I’m a fan of this song and probably hear it on every third or fourth visit to the supermarket. Keep.

Abandoned idea for PopAff episode 99 (Post-It in creative writing journal, 2017). I was going to do an entire episode where I looked at nine issue #99s from the 1990s. I already owned one that was on my list (New Titans #99) and had gone so far as to purchase Superman #99. But then I started hitting dead ends on finding the comics on the cheap (sorry, but I wasn’t going to pay more than 50 cents for these books) and got bored with the idea. Instead, Amanda and I talked about 1999 and it was a much more fun episode. Scrap.

“I’m Too Normal for This” (creative writing journal, 3/7/19). Using the name of an old blog, it was a navel-gazing piece where I wondered if my lack of struggle in life disqualified me from being a writer. Scrap.

“Radio/Music Education” podcast episode notes. (podcast notebook 3/14/19). I have this ongoing series of shows about my history with rock and pop music, and they have included my experience with various radio formats, such as soft rock and classic rock. About 90% of what was on this page went into episode 113 of Pop Culture Affidavit, “Taped off the Radio”, but among my notes about radio stations and the songs I remember putting on mix tapes were notes about morning zoo programs and various comedy bits. If I can find the clips I need, this may be an entire episode on its own. Keep.

Notes on how side B of Born in the U.S.A. is an exploration of approaching middle age. (podcast notebook, 5/14/19). This actually was an idea for a podcast episode but may just become its own blog post instead. Born in the U.S.A. is one of my favorite albums of all time and side B (“No Surrender”, “Bobby Jean”, “I’m Goin’ Down”, “Glory Days”, “Dancing in the Dark”, “My Hometown”) is one of my favorite second sides to an album ever. Plus, I had fun looking at the album from this particular perspective. Keep.

Notes for PopAff posts that were about commercials. (creative writing journal, 5/30/19). This is yet another topics list, and I’m starting to see the benefits of this whole exercise because I’d forgotten that I had written the down. I added the topics to my master list of blog and podcast ideas. Keep.

Podcast idea about the history of the suburbs. (creative writing journal, 5/23/20). I have a few things that I keep throwing around re: looking at suburbia via a podcast beyond the confines of Pop Culture Affidavit. I don’t know what exactly the end product is because there are times when I want to do a more academic study of it and other times when I want to do something personal. I tore this page out of the notebook and put it with my various “idea pages” in the pocket of my current notebook. Keep.

Podcast episode idea about five albums from 2010-present that have no skips. (Post-It notes and notes in podcast notebook, 4/20/20). This came from a social media challenge that went around in 2020, although the challenge was “all-time” albums (the answer to said question by the way is Rumours). Amanda and I decided that confining it to the most recent decade would be a great challenge, especially since I have been so far out of the pop music loop. I still think this is a good idea, so I transferred the list I compiled to my podcast notebook. Keep.

An idea for a novel (creative writing journal, 5/3/20). I think I watched too many Curiosity Inc. videos because I thought that a family saga novel wherein the framing device of cleaning out someone’s hoarded house would be a good idea. I even have a title–Remnants–and some ideas for characters and scenes. But it’s not fully formed and I’m not sure I’m ready to write fiction again after all these years. Still, I’ll give it time. Keep.

Another podcast episode topic list. (podcast notebook, June 2020). I think I need to expand my master list at this point because of the way I keep finding these idea lists. What’s in this one are ideas that actually became episodes, but there are others that are still very much alive and I’d like to plan, such as:

  • PBS
  • Cults (actually two episodes, including the film Midsommar)
  • Queen
  • Freaks and Geeks
  • Parker Lewis Can’t Lose
  • Some Kind of Wonderful
  • Weight loss and diet culture (actually a series of episodes)
  • My history online/the internet
  • Best song parts
  • Classical music
  • Compilation albums

This is almost a whole year’s worth of podcasting right here, and a number of them required me to watch, finish watching, or do some serious research. Keep.

Notes for a post or episode about The Glass House (creative writing journal, 8/10/20). This is a 1972 TV movie starring Alan Alda and Vic Morrow that I watched in high school. In fact, it was one of a number of television episodes and TV movies that we were shown in an elective called “You and the Law”. I intend to finish this as either a post or an episode. Keep.

A list of “advice” mentioned in minimalist videos. (creative writing journal, 6/2/21). A month or so ago, I posted about “The Art of the Decluttering Video” and my intention was to then look at some of the advice these people give, follow it, and see if it was worth it. I even wrote down the tips I thought were worth exploring, figuring that this would give me material for a series of posts. When I came back to the list, I found that I really didn’t care about the advice. Scrap.

“The residue of Uncool”. (creative writing journal, 7/5/21). This as a post about not being deemed popular in junior high and high school and how it can lead someone down the path to becoming an internet asshole. It’s a concept worth exploring, but my notes got very “woe is me” very quickly. Scrap.

An entire notebook with draft essays and notes for a memoir about Little League. Called Batting Last, it’s currently a mess of memory and story dumps with little direction. A bunch of said notes got typed up, mostly in the hopes of trying to make progress. I’ve been tinkering with this on and off for the better part of a decade and come back to it every once in a while. I still think it would be fun to write for real, especially if I can figure out what to do with it. Keep.

An entire notebook with notes and drafts of an essay collection about growing up in the suburbs. Speaking of suburbs, it’s something that I might either call It’s a Wonder We Survived or Shopping Mall Days and Multiplex Nights. I’m thinking the latter. And while a number of the essays are clearly my attempts at being Chuck Klosterman or something, some of them are essays (or ideas) I’m proud of. Keep.

An entire notebook with notes for a possible book on being a teacher along with a second notebook labeled “2011-2012 Journal”. This is a true mess and will get a blog post of its own, but for now I’ll just say I’m scrapping it. Scrap.

Overall, this was a nice, healthy exercise where I found stuff I’d “filed away for future use” but because the notebooks had piled up, had gotten lost in the pile. I’m not sure when I’ll find the time and energy to get through all of them, and there’s still more to sort through, but this feels like a start.

* Yes, twenty years. But don’t go looking for anything pre-Pop Culture Affidavit. Once I was done with those prior blogs, I took them down. If you want to hear all about it, listen to Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 101: Retrospecticus

** I also have files on my hard drive from a long time ago that will get their own look and entry one da, as well as a box full of creative writing journals that are much older than the ones explored here. Those might get folded into “Personal Archaeology”

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