I was going for a run the other day when a memory hit me with a right-hook. I should preface this by saying much of the memories of my youth have been, for whatever reason, blocked out. So when a memory hits me, it hits me hard and fast. This memory in particular really took me by surprise, as it was very fitting that I would remember it now. The memory? The first time I took a real, honest stab at writing.
The period of my life was high school. Three things had just started to settle into place: My love for the theatre, my love for Shakespeare, and my love for the rock band The Tubes. It was my sophomore year in school and I had just completed another summer at band camp (“This one time at band camp” jokes never get old to someone who’s actually been there.) A friend had just introduced me to the song “She’s a Beauty” and I felt all sorts of inner magic happening (Was it hormones, some new crush?). But it wasn’t until I read the Bard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that things really became other-worldly. In the naivety of a typical high school boy, I was certain that Shakespeare could be re-written to be better and more accessible to the average person. After all, who but actors could actually understand his language? And I had been acting for at least a year by that point!
Was that arrogant or what?
That young brain powered itself up in an attempt to figure out how to make Shakespeare more accessible…better. It wasn’t until I finally read the lyrics for the song “She’s a Beauty” that the idea hit me…a MUSICAL! But wait, I couldn’t write music. No problem, I’ll just use music already written. GENIUS! I had no idea about copyrights or intellectual property law, so I just went forward with my plan with Broadway-bright stars in my eyes.
The plan was simple. Take songs from The Tubes recording “Outside Inside” and place the individual songs into scenes from the play that I would “re-write” to better fit modern culture and civilization. And I got to work on it. Hard! Day in and day out I deciphered the Elizabethan English until I knew what was said, line by line and word for word.
The one song the entire musical hinged on was “Fantastic Delusion” (Which, I remember, was to be the title of the work.) It was a combination of the fantasy-like melody and the lyrics that gave me the hook I needed. So I took each and every song from the album, found scenes where they would fit, and then began re-writing the scenes.
A high school kid that could improve on Shakespeare. Just how do you think that worked out for me? Honestly, I didn’t finish it. But I did get about half-way through and was actually quite proud of the work I had done. And even though nothing came of that piece of work, it did flip a very important switch for me. That switch was the writing bug and it bit me hard.
From there I wrote a couple of stage plays, one of which was produced at a university, and then on to writing short stories, stage plays for YA audiences, tons of technical documentation, and, eventually, full-length manuscripts. But I would not be where I am now in my process had it not been for presumptuous past-Jack trying to “improve on Shakespeare”.
Now that I have the memory back in my brain I get to enjoy it with a laugh or two (at my own expense of course) and share it with my fellow writers and readers. I wish I could conjure up the notebook that held those early writings to see what horrible attempts kick-started a love for words. I don’t have them…but now, I can remember them.
“Don’t you wish you could stop wishin’
You’re not even listening
One thing for sure it’s real confusion