Writing unreadable garbage is a rite of passage that all writers undergo as we grow in our craft. I was blessed with my early cringe writing intersecting with the cringiest stage of my life: middle school. Yet some of my garbage has aged like fine wine.
So, I’m launching this blog series revisiting and reacting to my early cringe writing. As much as I mock my younger self, I wouldn’t be where I am today without writing that badly. Want to blog your hilariously bad writing, too? Let’s laugh at and honor our younger selves with #earlycringewriting.
At the tender age of 10-years-old, I wrote a series creatively called Middle School Experience. It follows a group of awful middle schoolers being awful to each other. My main character is not a good person. When I wrote her, I thought she was amazing, but actually, she’s terrible. Everyone is terrible. It was the early 2000s. I was obsessed with Degrassi and I hadn’t yet become a nerd. This may be the only middle grade thing I will ever write and I based so much of it on reality that I had to change most of the names to protect the innocent.
It was dawning.
I actually like this line and this use “dawn” as a verb for sunrises. Don’t get excited. This is one of few gems in this heaping dung pile.
We could hear the motor of the bus get louder as it approached. Me and my best friend Jenna walked up the steps. We spotted our friends Kathy, Laurie, and Julia.
The narrator’s friends are, more or less, the exact same generic 2000s girl. You know how Orphan Black is this amazing show where everyone is a clone but they’re all different and interesting? This posse is the opposite of that. They are the five Laurens in your homerooms, the two Beckys that you really shouldn’t confuse, but do anyway.
We sat with them in the front like sixth graders are supposed to. The bus was totally crowded at the end of the route.
This was an actual, unspoken rule in my school bus culture. You only sat in the back of the bus if you were older or cool. I was neither and even my main character knows her place.
I’m Haley Springer and welcome to the middle school experience.
**Cue the Lizzy McGuire opening**
We just came from Tidewater Elementary School and are now going to Riverside Middle School. The first day of school wasn’t that bad. On the second day, with the seventh and eight graders was hectic. The halls were so crowded you would think it would be an hour until you’d get to the next class!
Anyway, this is what we call life. We wake up at six a.m., get ready for school, and walk to the bus stop while the sun is still rising. We try to make our way through the hall and upstairs only to wait for people with big feet to get out of our way so that we can get to our locker!
It’s October now so we’re used to it. Everyday we follow a bell that rings at the end of every class. We have eight classes a day.
This entire chunk is the on-screen narration while Blink 182 plays in the background. The big feet line was 10-year-old me expressing the very real and very deep rage I felt at having the locker below a tall kid who did, in fact, have big feet.
I have dark brown hair with streaks of chestnut, dark brown eyes, and bangs.
Haley Springer was the original Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. Don’t @ me.
I’m kind of a medium height but Laurie and Julia are really tall. Julia has a record of being the tallest person in class and still holds that record.
Great job, Julia. Congrats on being tall. You have achieved.
We got off the bus and went into the cafeteria. We didn’t really sit with anybody. We just sat at a table. It took about twenty minutes for the bell to ring.
This was a real thing in middle school. We’d get off the bus and instead of going right to class, they packed us into the cafeteria to wait for the first bell. No idea if that happened in other schools or just mine.
As we were walking towards the stairs Julia saw him again. She saw what she describes as “the cutest boy on earth” and that was Ryan Penski.
OH NO. THE CUTEST. BOY. ON. EARTH.
The trouble is everyone in the sixth grade knows that he’s had a crush on me ever since Pre School. Except for Julia.
Oh, Julia, you sweet summer child.
I even know this because he is in every one of my classes and I can see from the corner of my eye that he’s staring at me. I find it just plain sick! He looks at me all day instead of paying attention in class.
JUST PLAIN SICK.
The thing is I don’t want to tell Julia because it would ruin the fun and I’d get killed.
Haley is a narcissist who loves seeing her best friend pine pitifully for a himbo who will never like her.
Julia stopped right in the middle of the staircase as she watched Ryan go up the stairs. Julia started following him but she was going too slow. So, I yanked her backpack and she woke up from her little fantasy. As we went up Ryan stopped and watched me go up the stairs. His friend Tyler Roy watched as Jenna went up the stairs.
There’s just A LOT going on on these stairs, okay????
We both looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Both Tyler and Ryan are in our homerooms and both of them do weird stuff to impress us. It never works.
Yeah, weird stuff like staring.
We went to our desks and copied our homework as Mrs. Layford got our papers ready. As usual Julia wasn’t paying any attention to anything except Ryan and Ryan wasn’t doing anything except pay attention to whatever the heck I’m doing. Of course Julia thought that Ryan was looking at her. This happens every day. Sometimes it was funny but other times it was just plain sick!
Haley’s two moods are “You hate to see it” and **vomiting.**
I don’t like any boys. Never have. The problem was that while I like no boys at all there’s some guy over there who’s practically worshipping me!
Ah, here comes the repression seeping out in ways I wouldn’t fully understand for decades!
Tempted to make merch saying “I don’t like any boys. Never have” and “I like no boys at all.”
I had to yank Julia again so that she wouldn’t get in trouble. She came back to earth just as Mrs. Layford passed by. She looked at us with a strange look on her face.
I let go of Julia and smiled a fake smile. Mrs. Layford just walked past us.
“Why do you keep doing this everyday?” I asked.
“Do what?” Julia asked.
“You know! You come in the classroom, sit at your desk and stare at Ryan until I have to yank you back to earth before Mrs. Layford gets the wrong idea and starts thinking that you’re a freak of nature and gives you detention!” I exclaimed.
Get ready to see a lot of “exclaiming” and hip 2000s slang like “freak of nature!” Someone get this child some snap bracelets to channel her nerves.
“Calm down Haley I can’t help it.” Julia replied.
“Well too bad because you will get detention like, everyday for lack of concentration!” I exclaimed.
“Come on I’m not going to get detention.” Julia said.
“Stop talking class or I’ll have to put you in detention.” Mrs. Layford stated.
“See what I mean Julia?” I asked.
Wow, Haley. You predicted the future. That’s so Raven!
I probably took this pattern from a Boy Meets World or All That episode.
“Yeah sure whatever Haley.” Julia said in a depressed voice.
“Is there a problem here girls?” Mrs. Layford asked as she walked by.
“No.” I said bailing Julia out for the hundredth time.
“How about you gentlemen.” She said walking towards Ryan’s table.
“No dude.” He replied.
This line exemplifies the understanding I had of writing boys at the time. They’re exactly the same as girls except they say “dude.” That’s it. That’s the only difference.
“Tyler! Stop staring at the young ladies!” Mrs. Layford exclaimed.
“Hey! Mrs. Layford we’re not young ladies we’re girls. We haven’t reached our teenage years yet.” I said. Everybody laughed. Julia, Jenna and I are the funniest people in our class. Everybody laughed at whatever we said.
But this isn’t funny. Haley is not funny.
“Mrs. Layford? I think it would be a good idea if the young ladies would shut up because if they don’t then I’ll make them smell like crap for the rest of their lives! Wait a minute I don’t have to they already smell like crap!” Karen said.
HERE. WE. GO. Introducing our antagonist, Karen.
Karen is this stupid jerk who thinks she becomes cool by trying to dis us.
It’s 2001 and you’ve been DISSED. **slams Sony walkman on the table**
Raise your hand if you’re a stupid jerk who thinks she becomes cool by trying to dis us.
What really happens is whenever she does it just makes her become more of a loser. Also, she’s trying to get to Ryan. She knows that he likes me and so she decided to start trying to make fun of me. It never works.
Haley is petty.
“Hey Karen! Was that supposed to be a dis or something because it didn’t really work. Oh! I know why! It’s because you are a total airhead! People can look in your ear and see out the other!” I exclaimed. Karen was speechless as usual. Everyone was laughing. Even Mrs. Layford!
Wow, Karen is so reviled that even the teacher enjoys making fun of her.
And there’s chapter 1 for you. It was certainly a chapter of a story. We’re just getting started unpacking all this drama I manufactured in my head. Please believe me when I say that the plot escalates.
Maybe I seemed like a mean kid writing this. But I rarely, if ever, behaved this way in real life in any obvious way. Much of this book is the way it is because I was not, in fact, a popular kid who had boys falling all over her. My actual middle school experience was that most kids liked me or were indifferent. I had one group of friends who somehow became the popular crowd and another group who didn’t, but people in both groups liked me.
I could’ve been a prep, but instead I became a weeb. This story has no weeb cringe, sadly, but is dripping with prep cringe.
At 10, I felt edgy writing this, edgy and powerful. This whole series is a mixture of projections, obsessions, and realities that I had no other way to process. All early cringe writing is like this, whether “early” for us is middle school or high school or later. We just have to get it out, and execute it horribly, so we can write something decent later.
How about you? Is your early cringe writing a preteen power trip? Does it make you JUST PLAIN SICK? Leave a comment and share your cringiest writing!