Many people believe that nobody should be writing about life until they’ve at least lived some. And indeed, many writers in their 20s encounter nothing but rejection, locked doors, and a tendency to gaze in the mirror a little too long as they wonder why the world doesn’t understand them.
However, a few others succeed. And I take my hat off to them (I am not feeling very well today, and am therefore wearing grotty clothing which does not bear description: however, I will say that there is inexplicable comfort in sometimes wearing a hat indoors), because I would never have been one of them.
Instead, I am one of those long-time scribblers who spent their single-digit years writing cutesy stories, their teens writing terrible poetry, and their 20s writing nothing. And I thank the powers that be for that. Because I have supreme confidence that anything I wrote in my 20s would have been a steaming pile of self-indulgent effluent. I found my 20s exhausting, quite frankly. And let me say that I have no desire to take that trip again.
With that in mind, here are 5 terrifyingly awful books I would have written in my 20s:
1. The (Post-Colonial) Fan Fiction
The adage “write what you know” is often sadly too close for comfort – in the pain being close to pleasure stakes – to: “write a badly imitated collage of what you’ve been reading”. And I went through a massive binge of post-colonial fiction in my 20s, such as the 20th century literature coming out of places like Africa and the West Indies, along with some of the stuff written by the descendants of early 1900s emigrants. I shudder to think of what might have happened, should I have attempted to apply my own experience to it.
Ching-Hua Abubu was not a large man. But he was like Doctor Who’s Tardis; bigger on the inside, crammed as he was with the suffering of his people. He wept, but walked on.
2. The Thinly Disguised Travelogue
Many writers in their 20s are guilty of this, but it is is not their fault. It’s hard to separate yourself from your experiences, when every experience you’ve ever had is the most incredibly amazing experience ever.
Mary-Joe O’Skeffington trembled as she set her heavy suitcase down upon the clean, flush-cobbled street outside Berlin Train Station. She was tired from her going-away party, singing all the old songs well into the small hours of her German wake. She noticed a bus arriving at its stop, bang on time. This would never have happened at home in Ireland. She really was in a new world now.
3. The Spectacularly Unaware Exploration of Self-Awareness
You know what it’s like in your 20s, right? When you’re like, learning so much, you know? About yourself? For years? Until you realise that you might have been a hell of a lot better learning about, you know, other people?
Mary felt like she was slipping into a murky layer of herself; the deeper she went, the more distant she felt from her friend Patty’s worries about men, careers and money. Mary couldn’t understand why nobody understood how alone she felt; how much she thought about thinking. She felt like weeping, but instead reapplied her eyeliner and stormed the bar, downing 16 shots in the first hour and scoring with three of Patty’s ex-boyfriends.
4. The ‘Life You’d Rather Have’ Novel
Patty was confused; the letter offering her the position of CEO of the Internet was like hot coal in her hands. How on earth was she going to choose? She had to tell Brad and Angelina if she’d take up the offer to be their PA by Thursday, and there were two voicemails on her phone urging her to get back to the IRFU about that Masseuse to the Irish Men’s Rugby Team job.
Sam grasped her hand. ‘I know you’re under pressure right now, Patty,’ he said gently. ‘But you have to tell me. Did Phil, that obscenely rich bastard, ask you to marry him? Because you know he can’t give you what I could.’
Patty gasped. Life was so hard.
Yeah, we’ve all been there. You have a great idea for a novel. You know it. Everyone else is going to know it. Sure, you have some research to do, but it can’t be that hard, right? I mean, where does science fiction come from? And fiction is supposed to be made up, right?
Stanley stared down at the columns of numbers in front of him. Debit on the left, credit on the right. He didn’t hate being an accountant, but he wished his job was something more than just adding up numbers all day. His friend Dave had a much better job, being a lawyer, wearing his wig to court just to make ground-breaking speeches.
Suddenly, he thought of his girlfriend Kelly, a real East-Ender from London, who always said ‘wotcha’ and ‘a’wight?’ He didn’t know how to tell her he was going to the Middle East, to meditate for six months. Stanley couldn’t wait to see the Steppes and the Fjords of Mongolia.
And there you have it, folks. Can we all just take a moment to be thankful that I didn’t start writing in earnest until my 30s? …Thank you.
How about you? Is there anything you’re glad you haven’t written? Or – more juicily – is there anything you have written you wish you hadn’t (and might be willing to talk about)?