My Madd Fat Brain Bug: A Story Box Full of Regret

The damnedest thing can place a bug in your brain. Rod Serling is the source of one of mine.

It happened while I was deep within my Twilight Zone infatuation phase, in the prehistoric information days before civilian access to the internet, when I devoured every Serling-related book, article or fanzine I could lay my grubby little mitts on. In one of the pieces, I read how Rod’s widow, Carol, found a number of scripts and stories amongst her late husband’s possessions that were unproduced at the time.

And thus the bug found a home in my grey matter.

I pictured Rod in the final moments before he shuffled off this mortal coil, his gaze sliding across the room until it fell on the closet door, eyes filled with that unique brand of sadness only known to writers. Carol would remember that stare and later be drawn to the closet by a mysterious force that urged her to dig out a box buried deep beneath the material remnants of Rod’s life, shed like so much old skin. A box filled with his regrets, the stories that remained untold, that never found a proper home.

You don’t have to say it, I know that’s all rubbish. Simply me fictionally placing myself in the position of a man I never met. If Rod had any regrets at all, I certainly wasn’t privy to them. But that doesn’t make my brain bug any less real.

You see, I have a box–well, it started off as a file folder and grew into a box–filled with stories in various stages of development. Ideas written on scraps of paper, composition notebooks loaded with concepts and outlines, and completed stories that only exist in paper form–written pre-computer on an Underwood typewriter, circa 1950–as I haven’t gotten down to the laborious task of transferring them to my computer.

I don’t discuss my box much and I only brought it up to respond to an email I recently received (copied and answered here with permission):

I want to write a blog but I’m scared of being exposed and having people judge or attack me because of my opinions and I don’t think I have the writing skills to get my point across in the right way. What gives you the courage to write?

Guess what? Self-doubt and anxiety regarding humiliation and criticism is all part of the process and grist for the mill, so welcome to the club. What separates writers from non-writers is that instead of running away from that fear, we invite it in for wine and cheese. Befriend the beast that frightens you most because there’s a story just waiting to be revealed in that encounter.

It’s true that honest writing takes courage, as does sharing your writing with people who may not be kind in their opinion of it, but you also have to realize that it’s not your job to make people like your writing. Some people will flat out hate it because of your views or your writing style, and because they may not know any better, can possibly hate you because of it. Hopefully, it’ll be the minority. Accept it as an unavoidable truth and move on.

As for the question, “What gives [me] the courage to write?” Everyone has their own reason for writing, and fear of acceptance isn’t high on my list. Sure, it’d be great if the unwashed masses loved my work, but the simple truth is all writing has its audience, whether infinite or infinitesimal, and if you never put your writing out there, there’s no chance in hell of your audience ever finding it.

The real reason I write is because of the aforementioned box. I just don’t want to be lying on my deathbed–hopefully many, many, many years from now–and staring at that damned box full of unwritten stories. I no doubt will have my fair share of regrets in my final days, but I’m determined not to have that box be one of them.

And since we’re on the topic of regrets, I recently read a book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing” by Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who cited the most common lamentations as being:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

So, while I can’t offer you reasons why you should write, I can tell you that most of the regrets listed above factor heavily in my need to write.

In closing, someone once wrote, “writing is like getting into a small boat with a wonky paddle and busted compass and setting out on rough waters in search of unknown lands.

So, paddle forth, friends, and be regret-freely writeful.

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys


Author’s note: Since I’m never at a loss for ideas, I don’t dip into my story box as much as I’d like to, though I will occasionally post one or two of them on this blog or slip them into or in between current projects. The story idea folder on my computer? That’s a whole different story.

19 responses to “My Madd Fat Brain Bug: A Story Box Full of Regret

  1. I have a box like that. Sometimes I pull it out when the well is dry and see if any of the ideas are interested in a new life. Other times I wonder if I need to keep that story from grade 2 where the moon fell out of the sky and the little girl saved the world with only her skateboard ramp…yeah. Yeah, I do. Rather than regrets, I love the thrill of them and the writer I used to be that’s still in them, somewhere.

    Except maybe that pretentious phase when I refused to write with anything but a dipping pen. *shakes head* Yikes.


    • Cheers for your comment and for relating. Being a writer is such a mercurial existence. Sometimes I’ll read a story from the box and cringe, then later I’ll read the same story and marvel at how it seems to have been written by a different person and I try to recall what my headspace was like at the time of its conception.

      If the “Sk8r Grl and the Falling Moon” story ever gets printed, I’d love to read it.

      Happy writing.

      PS. Not to harp on the whole moon thing but I saw this and thought of your story…


  2. I keep a bucket list to scratch off the things I want to accomplish before I die but I never considered creating a regrets list of things of things to avoid until now. Eye opener.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rhyan, I can’t agree with you more. Who wants a damn box left behind that eventually someone else is going to throw out. It’s all about the now and giving yourself chances that no one else really cares about. Writing begins with the self and then its domain expands when interested readers join one’s writing journey. How will you know if you have never tried? And if that’s the case then try a million times before you die. We all owe ourselves some support and compassion.
    You always manage a lovely fictional twist in any type of writing. And regrets are just tasteless snacks that weigh heavy in your stomach and cost a ridiculous price.
    Keep writing and inspiring.
    Sincerely, Shark. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, T.G. Sharkey,

      There’s an aphorism I strive to live by, “illegitimi non carborundum.” which is mock-Latin for “don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

      And I’m talking about the little things—the offhanded comments, the pieces of not-so-friendly advice, the hard doses of reality (meant for your own good, of course)—that chip away at your self-confidence bit by bit and make you want to turn your back on writing.

      Maybe you’re no good at it, maybe you’ll never make it as a writer, maybe you’ll never finish that novel, maybe you’ll never get your name out there, maybe no one will ever pay you for what you’ve written. So what? I’ve said it once before but it bears repeating: if you want to write, write.

      You don’t need to justify your desire to do so. Ever. To anyone.

      Thanks, as always, for your sage wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

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