Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Benefits of Clunkers

My hubby and I both come from large families, five kids each, and when it was our turn to drive, we drove the cars that had been handed down from older brothers and sisters. I was grateful for the car because it allowed me to putt around town on my own, and gave me some independence at 16.

My car wasn't bad at all. It was a cute little VW Bug my older sister had bought and my parents then bought from her. But it wasn't my dream car, and it wasn't mine.

My now hubby, but boyfriend at the time? His cars deserved their own special names. An old Cougar was called the "Bondo Mobile," because there were bondo patches all over the body. We named an old El Camino the "Leak Mobile," because water dripped through when it rained. And another car of undetermined make was affectionately named the "Kitty Litter Mobile" because it smelled like kitty litter. Let's just say I didn't fall in love with my hubby because of his slick cars. 

At the time I would've loved a brand new fancy car. What teen wouldn't? But I'm so glad my parents weren't in a position to give that to me. If we're given something without working hard for it, or given something brand new without realizing how lucky we are, then we miss an opportunity for ambition and gratitude.

Buying my own car was the very first thing I worked toward once I had a job. I scrimped and saved, and felt such pride when I plunked down my own hard-earned money and drove that new car off the lot. Nothing like it. And I babied that car, washing it once a week and putting the car cover on it each night. 

I compare clunker cars to the early stages of our writing journeys. Our firsts attempts at writing may deserve their own quirky names, and probably didn't garner much success. In my opinion, that's a good thing. Those clunkers made us ambitious, and hungry to learn more and become better at our craft. And with each new manuscript we write, we're better than before. And for that we can be grateful.

If awesome writers were awesome from the start, then what would they learn? When they reached success, would they value it as much? Would they be as thankful? Probably not. From what I've seen, awesome writers are so grateful they've reached their goals, knowing it took a lot of hard work to get there. 

When I look back on my early work, I cringe. Oh, the things I didn't know. And then I think about what I still don't know, and how I'm going to move to the next step. But instead of being frustrated by those early attempts, we can be thankful our successes are built on a mound of clunkers. Those clunkers can give us an attitude of gratitude as we move from one achievement to the next.

Do you cringe when you look back on your early work? Are you thankful for those clunkers, knowing they brought you to where you are today? And what was the first car you drove? Any funny breakdown stories you'd like to share?


  1. Hi, Julie! I enjoyed your post.

    I remember some of the clunkers I had. One was a Camero that had a huge hole in the floor on the passenger side from rusting out. I covered the hole with cardboard. Hubby and I had a car we called the Frankenmobile because the hood of the car was held together by bolts that stuck out. LOL.

  2. You bet I cringed!
    Parents who hand their kids brand new cars, regardless of the model, are doing them a disservice.

  3. Great analogy! I bought my first car. Only $900, but I loved it. It was a muscle car & I paid cash. My second car I took a loan for and was terrified. It was a sexy sports car. Neither were clunkers but neither were they brand new shiny cars. As for my writing, I'm lucky that my first is now published but even saying that, as I read thru the paperback for the first time, I see lots of ways to improve, mistakes I now edit my authors for (as an editor.) I suppose that's as it should be. Always improving. Learning. I hope that means the next one will be better. I sure hope so.

  4. Great post.

    I love the analogy! I've written and driven a few clunkers in my!

  5. Love this post! I've definitely written clunkers :) My first car was passed down to all 3 of us girls. It was a light blue 1979 Buick Park Avenue with an 8-track player and CB Radio. It was called the Big Blue Bomber (the Bomber for short) or the Tunaboat. It was a hard sucker to park in the high school lot.

  6. The great thing about going back to "clunky" early work is that now I have the tools to cover the bondo with a nice candy apple red paint job. A new set of tires doesn't hurt either.

  7. The Benefit of Clunkers?

    I'm so fortunate. I write 'em all the time!

    Thanks for making me feel better, Julie.

  8. It was actually my third car (the other two just sat in the driveway, lol) given to me that motivated me to drive. It was a Ford and it stalled going around curves. It was a nightmare--and one of the best learning experiences of my life.

  9. I don't cringe when I look at my old work, I chuckle at myself and can't believe how good I thought they were. I've kept the first MG I wrote and the first Adult just as fond reminders that show me how far I've come.

  10. I don't cringe because a lot of times I can see the good story beneath the bad writing, but it IS gratifying to see how much I've improved.

  11. Oh, my first car...My mom bought for me to drive around my brothers and sisters. It was NOT the coolest car. My friends made fun of it all of the time. But, it was a car! ;-)

    My first stories...ay yi yi! Not so great. But, you're right. You have to have some clunkers first before you get up into the really nice ones.

    Great analogy!

  12. oh, yes, there are cringe-worthy moments in my early writing, but I try not to look back too much--LOL! :D

    As for clunkers, those cars make for the best memories, though. Yes? <3

  13. Clunkers are definitely a great analogy for starting out in life. I, too, think that not having it easy when you’re starting out with something will prepare you sooner for different situations. If I had been in your position, I think I would have used the money to fix the cars up first before buying my own car. It would be like finding a solution to the problem before moving on to something else.

  14. Buying a new car after having been through the clunker stage can also be an analogy for evolving as a writer. With all the new car trends out there, you start developing an idea of the kind of new car that you want to own. In writing, you pick up more and more ideas and styles from all the new authors that you come across. But of course, with both cars and writing, you have to start somewhere! Never underestimate the benefits of clunkers!

  15. Hi there, Julie! I was laughing while I was reading through your blog, especially the part about giving the cars special names. Yeah, I remember my very first car. It was a second hand, two-door Hyundai Excel. Oh, how I loved that car! It was easy to drive, easy to maintain, and easy on the pocket. I gave it regular maintenance, and that is the reason why it lasted for 8 years.

    Ellsworth Mciltrot