the rubbermaid tub of broken dreams

In a fit of nostalgia-fueled panic, I dug with gusto into this blue tub I keep in the closet that houses all the old poetry and scripts and stories I wrote in my teenage years.

This is not a metaphor. I hope.

That blue tub contains horrors and treasures in equal measure. Like some kind of acne-speckled Cave of Wonders.

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But the reason for this spelunking expedition seemed straight-forward enough at the time. My ambition for my own work was starting to frustrate me. I felt like I couldn’t start to plot something out or brainstorm without trying to add complicating layers. I’d come up with a plot-point or character tic and then my mind would spiral off into a million tangents, like light through a prism. But it was neither that beautiful nor that cliche; my mind just felt… overwhelmed.

Or, even worse, I would start to obsess over what it all means. This is not necessarily a problem, but when it comes with a lack of plot progression or character development, then I’m stuck. I might be staring down the barrel of something that sounds brilliant, but I can’t actually write it.

Working under the assumption that these murky depths in my writing came like layers, one with each year of my life, I decided to find a story idea from my younger years. Somehow, I thought, I could peel back those layers to get to the core. Somewhere down there was a simple narrative along the lines of girl-meets-boy-then-dies-horrifically-in-battle.

I just needed something… simple… to clear my head. I’d become too bogged-down. For me, writing is like that old myth about sharks drowning if they stop swimming. I’ve got to keep writing. As soon as I lose momentum, it takes forever for me to start going again. Weeks. Months. Years, sometimes.

So I needed something where I could just sit down and start writing. Something simple.

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Not counting some ridiculousness about teenagers taking road trips that I wrote when I was twelve, the first story I had that I really fleshed out was a science fiction epic (that leaned a little too heavily on Hollow Earth nonsense).

When I started telling Husband all these laughable ideas I had when I was a teenager, he asked me more about this one. For the better part of a forty-minute car ride, I dove into the story, surprised at how much of this world I created when I was thirteen came back to me.

It’s been well over fifteen years since I’ve even thought about it. I’d long ago banished it to the realm of absurd shit I used to think was cool. (Some of the company it kept: post-grunge pop punk and shiny plastic peacoats.) I’d assumed it was terrible.

But it’s… not.

Which is surprising. There are problems with the first couple of chapters I already had, naturally, but the premise is sound. Even if you ignore the stupidity of Hollow Earth crap and just go with it. Hell, subterranean fiction is it’s own genre with a deep mythology.

I started over from the beginning on Tuesday and I’m already over 5000 words in. That’s farther than I ever got before.

Subterranean homesick blues, indeed.

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