Written in Another Life: Reviewing and Roasting My Teenage Writing
This edition is from my senior years of secondary school. It was painful to bring up, especially as I set a ‘no-editing’ rule as I typed it up. So here it is, errors, strange punctuation, weird wordcraft and all.
She, Ophelia, was born for order. Her life and existence were made with structure and she respected and revelled in this amazing feat of the universe. The stars aligned on the day she was born, and she aimed to keep them aligned her whole life.
She worked and planned, true to herself, and left no room for failure or deviation. Perfectionism was childsplay to her. She had to control and steer life to her making. Failure and death were synonymous…
A strong recurring theme in writing at this point in my life was my inner feelings in anticipation of the Leaving Certificate exams. A lot of me is in Ophelia, especially the intense fear of failure, taken straight from Marina and the Diamonds’ bop ‘Oh No!’
The celestial imagery was a favourite of mine back then, but is a bit strange to me now, considering the fact that I stay very clear from dabbling in astrology (it gives horoscope vibes). A brilliantly useless habit of mine is my ability to say the same thing in different ways in an attempt to show off my writing flair, but in reality, sounding as if I swallowed a thesaurus. I’m working on that these days, but back then I would beat, flog, whip, batter, and thrash dead horses.
2. ‘He/she stared into her bowl of cornflakes’
Write a short story where the central character considers/reflects on a mistake/bad decision they made.
She stared into her bowl of cornflakes and wondered why she didn’t have bran. Everything she had wanted in life seemed to move backwards, there was no longer a plan, no longer order or instruction. From the moment she woke up, her life seemed to fall apart. The routines she worshipped and the schedules she abided by and constructed religiously had been desecrated and there was no faith, no God left standing. The problem with taking risks and disrupting normalcy is the enormous potential for devastating disaster. That was the exact problem she walked directly into…
What a strange way to leave something unfinished, especially considering I didn’t even meet the criteria of the prompt properly. Very overdramatic with that huge jump from cereal to existential crisis. I don’t mind my habit of switching from reality to speculating narrative voice, perhaps because I am harnessing it better, but this is pretty cringy. Disasters tend to be devastating, some things go without saying, Fadilah.
3. The view from my bedroom window
The view from my bedroom window is the same, not accounting for the various shades of light that change gradually every day. The sun’s indecisive position in the sky and the restless clouds eager and malevolent to dim her glow. Besides that, the view from my window is regular, discounting the weather’s effects on my little zone of security.
Rain drops that fall unpredictably, wetting different patterns after falling at variable speeds. Our slanted slashes of rain that rap against the window, torrential downpour like an angel emptying a water bottle over my home. A blanket of wet, even and straight.
Only when the world is buried under feet of snow, a white canvas soft and blinding and inviting — only then does the view change. The seasons disrupt the rhythm of my stagnant screen of a bedroom winter.
If only we could do without autumn’s tricolours and crispyness, it’s warmth. If we had less of winter, less freezing and heating, less ugly of melting — then my view could stay the same. The cherry blossoms on the tree in my garden need to stop blooming and sprinkling their fallen selves in a myriad of pink and white. The people and cars, lamposts and bins, everything needs to stop, freezeframe while poised and perfect, to elect my View. The questions begin: day or night, summer or winter, heat or cold. Do I want the birds overhead and gracious flowers in my path, do I want wheelie bins and cars parked in the middleground? My perfect view remains undecided.
The result of reading too much Irish poetry (that loves talking about nature all the time). The dramatic, barely-comprehensible sentences that manage to talk but say nothing make for the embarrassing but necessary practice steps that must be taken to eventually get to good writing. And boy, this is riddled with errors. Past Fadilah needed to be spoken to sternly about the use of adjectives.
4. A person I admire
A person I admire, that comes straight into my head at the first thought, is unfortunately buried and laid to rest beneath many layers of soil and our feet. The next person, my current academic inspiration, is a loud but gentle mass of loose curls as she speaks to me during the week. Her habits and structures all of which terrify and fascinate me initially — are genius, and with her determination, rigour and positive energy she commands goodness her way in an unspoken power move. I admire and take inspiration from her and her stories of consistencies and hard work. I adore her self-assuredness and carefree attitude in the pursuit of what she loves, and she impacts my life in many ways — all for the positive.
This was about UnJaded Jade, a dear studyTuber whose academic advice content I really enjoyed consuming at the time. She is not ‘a loud but gentle mass of loose curls’, she is a person. I love how my youthful lingo made its way into my writing in such a strange way: ‘an unspoken power move’ makes me laugh a lot.
Regarding the first person ‘that comes straight into my head at the first thought’ (yikes): the overkill strikes again: ‘buried and laid to rest’. As a side note, I don’t think there is anything unfortunate about being dead as long as you have lived a good life. I don’t remember for sure who that nameless first person was but may they rest in peace and may Allah’s mercy envelop them.
5. ‘you will be the death of me’
‘you suck the life out of me’
Time is Running Out
We jump and move and sway, his head bangs the puppeteer of our movement. We scream and sing and cry — this is living. We are alive. I am one of the human throb, pulsating and contorting, human spirit amplified in our collectivity. I want out. I don’t want to be controlled by the artificial, the metal and the strikes of drum or guitar. I want to feel myself, in my own, moving because I want to, dancing because I need to. Music or no music, this sound is controlling my life and I am locked, trapped in it. The individuality the music promised me is the very substance I feel being sucked out of me. I feel myself in strange ways, temporary unstable connection with a stranger.
His eyes are closed and he is one of the throb. Their energy courses through him. I was him but I can no longer be. There is no way out of this world, no way out of the throb. So I close my eyes too and raise my arms, my fingers limp and unwilling. I open my mouth and the words come out involuntarily, my addiction to the cacophony.
This music will be the death of me.
I still quite like what this piece was able to capture. This was written by someone who had never been to a concert (and still has not), so all I had were my observation skills and imagination.
6. Homework: 05/10/17
The concrete jungle is exactly that. Hikers and scenic walkers tend to sneer at anyone who doesn’t enjoy looking at grass, hills and lakes. While traditional nature is calming and chill, I believe that human nature is the best to observe and is chaotic in a beautiful way, especially when compared to outdoors nature.
My name is Jeannette and I vow to explore city life. New York, London, Paris, Madrid — these are the places where I believe I will be totally overwhelmed by experience. As part of my exploration, I collect anecdotes and these help my hippie agenda, on which self-discovery is the main point.
I stood there, in the middle of Dublin City Centre. I was there to eat new food, meet knew people, and most importantly, to collect anecdotes. I released a sharp breath and wondered where to start. I told myself that it would be just like any other city, but the feeling of shock was simply too much for me. What made this place so different?
I almost began to cry. Everyone there looked so sure of themselves and self-consumed. How was I meant to navigate the city, let alone enjoy it? I was certain that I wouldn’t collect any decent anecdotes in the city, and I didn’t want to anyway. That was until I heard a voice:
‘Jeannette, let’s go for food and go to a museum or two.’
I spun around to try and locate the voice’s owner.
‘C’mon, don’t waste time hesitating now’.
I don’t know what overtook me. I listened. It’s not like I had anything better to do in this city anyway. I began walking, and as I passed the 6th Starbucks I thought:
This may be the most dangerous thing I’ve done, but at least it’ll tick boxes’.
This is incredibly painful to re-read.
Firstly, there is a reason I do not name my characters. Jeannette? Really? Secondly, the dialogue is so jarring and unnatural.
Thirdly, there was absolutely zero understanding of the ‘show, don’t tell’ concept in my mind when I wrote this.
It gives low-quality YA fiction vibes, and I frankly hate it. I will say that I like the line about observing human nature, I wish I had expanded on it rather than going on to talk about ‘collecting anecdotes’ (what?) and the pointless line ending: ‘especially compared to outdoors nature’.
And as someone who has now become well-accustomed to Dublin City Centre (and who had barely ever been at the time of writing), I can say with confidence that Jeannette probably had something else going on (i.e. a projection of my anxiety in busy places), because that is a ridiculous reaction to a city like Dublin, with all due respect. Also, note how there was no description of what made her feel so overwhelmed besides the fact that everyone else knew where they were going. What a trainwreck of a piece.
7. Imagining (TW: attempted suicide)
‘Were I to have embraced you and told you I loved you, I would have said…’ She stopped. I waited. I’m sure I waited for at least two days because she got up and left. What would she have said? I scoffed internally. So what if she told me she loved me? That didn’t mean anything to anyone anymore. She could have loved me 500 times over to the moon and back and not have changed a thing about how I felt at all.
Thinking about it, she was actually a bit stupid. Feeling all that self-pity and boo-hooing ‘Oh boo-hoo it’s all my fault, if I’d told Daniel I’d loved him, he wouldn’t have tried to kill himself’.
Well maybe she was right, but she didn’t anyway. Oh, well, I’m still alive. What was I thinking? I sounded like one of those hippies who thought that saying the word love every five minutes would end world hunger and make Israel and Palestine kiss and shake hands.
I knew I was right just thinking about the word. I said I loved loads of things. I loved Pringles, I loved my dog, I loved my bike and I loved playing football. None of that meant anything now, and certainly did not save my life.
It’s lovely when people quote ‘love is all you need’ from a guy who battered his wife.
All the while thinking this, though I lay motionless in the hospital bed, my heart started beating faster and I mentally clutched my fists.
A nurse came running in as the monitor attached to my body beating its call-it-cynical, call-it-hateful pulse began beeping.
I swore I never wanted to hear anyone who said they loved me again. I hope she never finished her sentence.
There are only a few things that make me want to scream-laugh at my choice of words in this piece. Firstly, why the unnecessary (and clued-out) mention of Palestine and Israel? It seems so wrong. Secondly, my monolithic idea of teenage male characters: crisps, bikes, football and a pet dog. And the very basic name of Daniel. Thirdly, the reference to John Lennon was very out of pocket. Kind of disturbingly dark and unnecessary. The bluntness with which Daniel speaks about suicide is not something I regret though, because that is reality.
The last three sentences have some serious syntax issues, but the piece as a whole could have had potential if it were to have carried on, as there was some intrigue built up in the first half.
Conclusions: My only semi-excuse is the fact that this was originally written by hand and not typed, as I was less able to edit and move around words. Other works typed around the same period contained fewer structural issues and overall errors. Though embarrassing, these are the behind-the-scenes stepping stones that slowly but surely make for improved writing over time. I also appreciate the honesty of what these pieces capture as major themes in my adolescent life: school, new experiences, an awareness of the constants and temporaries of my soon-to-change life, music, and mental health.