"Nobody writes anything of worth until they're 30." -Dr. William Wegner, learned professor of communications, Trenton State College, Fall 1993
I was given this pearl of wisdom at the beginning of my third year of college, when Trenton State's Television/Theater Production department - which had just been introduced the previous spring - was in the process of defining itself. I had initially registered at TSC as a theater major, but was informed on my arrival that the old theater department had been phased out and was being reconstituted to reflect the changing times. The result was TTP, which was so amorphous at the start that we students were essentially able to make up our own curricula. Since I was in college to hone my skills as a writer, that's what I decided to base my curriculum around - my writing.
So it was in the fall of 1993 that I announced my intention to write and produce a radio sketch comedy program for my Junior Seminar/Practicum project. Dr. Wegner, one of the more advanced (in age, not skill) holdovers for the old theater department (he could be played by Philip Baker Hall in the movie version of my life) was in charge of my class and he immediately turned his nose up at my idea. For one thing, he didn't think that a radio show fell within the purview of the major. I contended that it did. In that case, he argued, why should I bother producing original work when I could instead adapt a short story by Gogol or some other established author? That held no interest for me. I was bursting with my own ideas, so why should I be forced to rehash somebody else's just because I was ten years shy of some arbitrary cut-off point?
I persisted and, over Dr. Wegner's objections, produced three episodes of a program I called Radio Show #47 (so numbered because its theme song was Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"). Since most of my fellow TTP students had little of substance to show for themselves at the end of the school year, Dr. Wegner was forced to acknowledge that I had at least produced something - regardless of its worth - and I got an A for the course. The following fall, when a different professor was in charge, I made one more episode and all four were broadcast on WTSR, the campus radio station. I have no idea how many people were listening to WTSR those four weeks, but at least the show got out there and everybody who worked on it received a tape to remember it by.
Of all the things I've done over the years (and I'll refrain from dragging them all out of the closet), Radio Show #47 is one of the ones of which I'm most proud. When I listen to it now it feels like the work of somebody who just wants to goof off with his friends and earn some college credit while doing so. Most everything I've done since then has had that same vibe - up to and including my pieces for Pork Pony/Unloosen and my online comic Dada. My work now may be, by necessity, of a more solitary nature, but I'm happy that people still take the time to read it at all. And somewhere in there I sailed past Dr. Wegner's magic age without once thinking, "Aha! Now is the time to begin writing things of worth!"
That said, I have noticed a change in my writing of late. Over the past six months, since I started posting a story a week, I've been letting more autobiographical details slip into my stories, or I've used incidents from my life as jumping-off points. I actually was named employee of the month and, more often than not, didn't get to park in the designated spot. I actually was verbally threatened in a bathroom and walked so much it felt like my feet were killing me at a prominent music festival. I actually did order a side of hushpuppies at Long John Silver's. And a coworker actually did ask if it was cold enough for me in the depths of February.
Of course, things in real life rarely turn out the way they do in my stories. Even the most thinly veiled anecdotes have some exaggeration in them. After all, where would we writers be without the ability to reinvent and reorder our own lives?