Creative Writing 101: “All I know is that I don’t know nothing.”
So way back in ’87 there was a punk band that called themselves Operation Ivy. The band started in 1987 and ended in 1989, after playing over 180 shows, but that didn’t stop them from becoming one of the seminal influences on later punk and ska-punk.

Scroll forward to 1992. Harley, naïve farm boy, goes to college, finds new friends and new music. A kid down the hall lends us the first Op Ivy album (produced after their breakup). We listen to it for weeks straight. The music is fast, upbeat and aggressive, with lyrics that call for social responsibility (when you can discern them).

Powerful stuff for an impressionable young male. When called in for a conference with the director of the Creative Writing program, I was asked, “What do you want to accomplish with your writing?”

My answer went something like this:

“I want my stories to pick up the reader and throw them across the room.”

I was laughed out of the office, and for good reasons. The power of music and writing are radically different. Still, traces of those original aspirations remain.

Fast forward again, to 2006. Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, previously of Op Ivy, are now part of Rancid and Lars Fredrickson and the Bastards. Now I’d never ask anyone to listen to either group --- it’s an acquired taste to be sure --- but here is some footage of Rancid doing an acoustic cover of an Op Ivy song. It’s suitable for adult ears, and captures the emotion of the genre.


That Op Ivy can still has relevance is inspiring. Maybe my old writing goals can still be relevant, as well.


Edit ... when my little brother got to college, he wrote Op Ivy, neither of us realizing that the band had been non-existent for 4+ years. He received a hand-written reply from the folks at Epitaph thanking him for his letter and encouraging him to check out Rancid.

We did, and things were never the same.


At 7:05 PM, Blogger matt said...

That clip is great, brings back the flood of old memories..

All I'm mostly certain of is that I'm a lazy bastard these days. ;)

As always, love you H. :)

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“I want my stories to pick up the reader and throw them across the room.”

Would settle for being knocked back in your chair?

I've read a few stories like that, that really had impact, and made me feel the weight of the writing. I aspire to being able to create some stories that make the reader whisper under their breath, or have a genuine "wow" moment.

I was very fortunate to have had a very supportive Creative Writing teacher in high school. In fact, I wish I'd paid a little more attention at the time, because she was very complimentary of my work, even when I know now that it wasn't very polished, just ambitious.

The moral of the story though is that I wouldn't put a lot of stock into any program (or teacher) where derision is used as a motivating tool. Though if I'm taking the reaction of the Director out of context, then forgive me.

I don't know good my polishing skills are, but I do know my ambition is still pretty prevalent.


~ J.L. Collins ~

At 1:04 AM, Blogger saurus said...

I always liked how you could always tell a rancid song by the distinct brong-brong-de-do-do-de-brong of the bass guitar. I was driving back from the east bay to campbell california (haha, figure i'd roll some rancid references AND some Lars references in there) and heard said guitar and immediately turned around and drove over to rasputin's to grab the brand spankin' new rancid. you'd think now that i live in an area filled with colleges (Raleigh NC) i'd be able to find at least one descent college station. sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

but since i'm rambling....

last night, well, this morning - 5:30 am (schedule being all mangled due to the bauhaus show the night before (here's proof of peter murphy from my pink phone) i'm up and can't get back to sleep so i flip coast to coast on. there's this /huge/ freekin' lightning storm taking place outside and some stupid caller calls in saying he doesn't believe the sasquatch sound is all that different from the 'dog man of ohio' sound or something like that. so Punnett plays both.

Sasquatch: grraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
Dogdude: rarrrrrrrroooo rarrrrroooo

Meanwhile, lightning crashes. Now, on the whole I'm totally alright with a werewolf locking me in his jaws because I think it would be flipping awesome to run around without clothes on and being able to rip peoples heads off, but damn if all that plus the lightning didn't make me hide under the covers.

and now back to your regularly scheduled blog....

At 2:13 AM, Blogger saurus said...

Correction. It was Matt that wrote back.

"Thanks for writing. OPIV broke up in 1989. Sorry to tell you this. We still get alot of mail. That unity jacket on the C.D. Lint made himself. WE don't sell them. ME and Lint are in a new band called Rancid. We have an LP/CD on Epitaph. You might want to check us out.

Thanks again for writing.


I always felt a bit cheated though. Whenever the Bosstones wrote back, they always included some stickers at least.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Grimbones said...


Absolutely, but right now I'd settle for just getting a decent plot.

As for my teacher, I don't think she was trying to be derisive, just burnt out. Maybe fiction can't move people like music can, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.


My favorite part of that clip is watching Lars' face. He is so darn happy. At all the ska shows we saw, that was always the point: it was a celebration with a purpose.

Matt, you have mail.


At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Gaming fiction DOES throw people across the room. Multiple times in an evening.

So there.


At 1:46 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I had a similar experience with one of my writing instructors ... he stared at me rather oddly when I explained that I wanted my writing to be the literary equivalent of being smacked in the head with a two-by-four.

I guess that might throw somebody across the room. : )

BTW, love the sound clip. I'm more of an old-school Black Flag (pre-Rollins) fan, but Operation Ivy still rocks..

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Grimbones said...

Black Flag. Love it, Mike. You are SO bringing your deck to GenCon. Old Men on Wheels Vs. the Midwest.


At 1:45 PM, Blogger Jw said...

I've been thrown across the room by quite a few writers- C.M. Kornbluth especially. Oh, and there was this one time at a Ray Bradbury book signing where I told him that Dandelion Wine was just a word-for-word rehash of David Copperfield...


Post a Comment

<< Home