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My Very First Time*

*Interpretations may vary in my 50th Vocal Post

By Matthew FrommPublished 8 months ago 6 min read
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My Very First Time*
Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Anyone who follows me on Vocal should have noticed my proclivity to bend, but never break, the prompts to fit my narrative.

This one is absolutely no exception. I’d call it my most egregious bend so far; the proverbial super-heated steel of this prompt is about to be curved into a U.

Because what constitutes a “first” piece?

Let’s take it back to the beginning, shall we?

My age-clouded memory remembers learning about creative, expository, and persuasive writing around second grade; my earliest memory of writing. While most of my classmates wrote narratives about their summer, sports, recess, etc., young me, ever the rebel, wrote a story about Scooby-Doo, Santa, and Han Solo fighting against some nebulous mosquito-like alien invaders. It hardly passed as coherent, let alone a story.

Does that constitute a first piece more than writing my first words? I’m hard-pressed to say yes.

So then, let’s move on to the first thing I published, a poem written during my Senior year of High School. If I looked really hard, I could probably find a copy, but I won’t bother you with that. It was a simple sing-song rhyme scheme and a few five-cent words that managed, I guess, to evoke a feeling of summertime. At least evoke it enough to win our school's poetry contest against an underwhelming field, and, crucially, fifty points of extra credit. I was an above-average writer, but a below-average English student. Still, I hardly consider it a piece in retrospect. There was no process, no completeness, nothing that would make me believe I did anything more than one of a million monkeys hammering on a keyboard.

Once again, I cannot consider this my first piece. Closer, but still far, far off.

I won’t lie to you, dear reader; I’m as honest a man as Nick Carraway (the limit of our similarities). That win gave me a new thrill. A new level of my imagination blossomed into being. A belief that I might actually have some real chops. That summer, I started writing my first novel. It was an audacious attempt at a space opera exploring topics of exploitation, human nature, and hubris; I believe I got five, maybe six, chapters in before it went on the shelf, and the file was sadly corrupted along the way.

Again, hardly a complete work. This one was different, however. This story had a plot. It had characters. It had a conflict, and, most importantly, it had a process. I would lay there every night and write a page. It may have been a good page, or it may have been a shit page, but it was one a day–a process much better than my current “shotgun words in between meetings” process—way to go, young me, way to go.

If I sound like a broken record, I would not consider this my first piece– it never came close to completion. However, it still had a few critical firsts: my first attempt at a novel, my first attempt at being a processed author, and the first time I ever printed something for my dad to read. He asks to this day if I will ever finish it.

Sadly, I won’t be in that destroyed format. As time went by, the story continued to live with me, and you can read a hopefully more mature version of its essence here:

Bumper!

Now we get to the good stuff; my first real piece. Of course, this will not be a straight path. Fast forward from high school senior year to college senior year at the good ole University of Minnesota (Ski-U-Mah). I had one more writing credit to graduate, so I took a creative writing class, naturally. One of the last assignments of my college career was to write a chapter of a novel.

Let me tell you, I heard that was the assignment, and I fist-pumped. Easy A. Let’s get to the pomp and circumstance and onto the real world. I wrote a, retrospectively, ridiculously long twenty-page chapter about a Lord in the mountains and encroaching darkness on his borders, a mysterious civilization made suddenly known, and his own inability to comprehend the changes to his world at his ripe old age. Wonderful!

I got it back with a big old F, and a see me after class.

The fuuu

As I hammered along on my keyboard, trying to bring the story to life, I paused and posted a segment on Reddit to solicit some feedback. My professor, believing there was no way I had actually written it, had gone snooping and thought me to be plagiarising my own U/janedoe’s work.

A few awkward conversations later, I was handed an A- because, in her opinion, it was not an entirely original work since I had toyed around with the world-building before I received the assignment. It was petty, but what does that matter?

Sorry all, still not my first piece. It still wasn’t complete, only an incomplete taster, like going to a Michelin Star restaurant for a tasting menu and leaving after the first course. That’s not dinner.

Fast forward six years to the not-at-all-fine year 2020. I suddenly found myself working from home with a lot of time on my hands–wonder why. I decided to give it a go again, and picked up the story of the Falconer that got me that A. With vigor, I dove headfirst into the deep end and told myself I would be Stephen King, writing a thousand words a day until I finished.

And by the old gods and the new, I did! A complete draft of a novel. Four hundred pages. Multiple unique points of view, prologues, epilogues, appendices. A completely new world, living in between those rough red penned pages while I tried in vain to mold that rough piece of clay. It had it all! It’s sitting on my shelf right now. I can see it lying in wait while I type this.

It’s still not my first piece, but I will finish it one day. It missed the crucial, final, last step.

It was the critical link that conceived my first actual piece.

A piece that is a complete story, written from a process, that contains every story element, yet continues to exist beyond the final word. A story that went through an internal drafting process, garnered feedback from both alpha and beta readers, and has living characters that undergo an arc. Most importantly, I published it for the masses in a (mostly) final form.

It also was my first piece on Vocal, another critical step in the journey. (Note: I changed it from fiction to chapters, so it’s no longer my first listed story…the irony).

You can read it here:

I could end here–probably should end here to answer the prompt. But I won’t. That’s no fun.

I’m drawn now to another strange irony. This post is my 50th Vocal story, a number strangely evocative of the half. I find my below-average English student’s mind reflecting on Robert Frost–yes, that ridiculously overused poem.

I stand at those cliched crossroads (I always assumed there was an inn or a nice campfire with hearty travelers at that breaking of paths) with two roads in front of me. To where? I’m unsure, yet neither of them seems nearly as important as the one I stand on, deciding where to go next. That is the road that made all the difference.

I suppose we’ll all have to find out together.

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About the Creator

Matthew Fromm

Full-time nerd, history enthusiast, and proprietor of random knowledge. The best way to find your perfect story is to make it yourself.

Here there be dragons, and knights, and castles, and quests for entities not wished to be found.

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Comments (4)

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  • River Joy5 months ago

    I enjoyed this introspective journey through your "first" piece. Nice!

  • ❤️💯😉📝👌

  • Lamar Wiggins8 months ago

    Awesome stuff, Matt. It's good to know the process and history behind your methods and inspiration. Congrats on 50!!!

  • Judey Kalchik 8 months ago

    I think that a life filled with firsts is a very fortunate life indeed. Here's to many many more firsts.

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