I recently pulled some writing I hadn’t seen in ten years off an old computer.
Some of it made me cringe, but some of it still holds up.
I spent time reading old stories, some from when I first started writing. With years of writing experience behind me, I read with a much more critical eye than ever before. Like examining the progression of life through the fossil record, I saw steps in the evolution of my writing with each page revealed.
* * *
It’s easy to say, “Read some of your old writing for inspiration.” For many, that means, “Look at how bad my writing used to be–I know I’m better now, but I’m still stuck in a writing rut…”
It’s very easy to be critical of old work–even embarrassed. But that’s not what I’m suggesting.
I’m suggesting you reread old writing and look for what you’re still proud of after all the years. Those scenes that make you stop and smile because you either just hit it the first time you put the words on the page, or because you made progress with a particular story…really look at the things you did in the beginning that worked.
Are you still doing those things?
If not — why not?”
* * *
We all get better the more we do something, but in our earliest works are often glimpses of the future. There are recurring themes and tricks we use to evoke a particular emotion or when describing something a certain way. And there are times we were just badass, throwing down a string of words that seemed like they came from the mind of a much better writer.
Really look over some old writing if you’re having a hard time, lately. Sure, let yourself laugh–even cringe–at some of the bad writing you did; if you recognize it, now, it means you’ve become a better writer and don’t have as much to fear. But more than laughing in embarrassment at something you wrote years ago, remember how good it felt when it all started coming together and the words flowed. Acknowledge that there were some things in the beginning that you did–or at least tried to do–that have become part of who you are as a writer.
When you acknowledge your strengths and see how far you’ve come, even through rough times, it’s not so hard to bring that spark back to your writing.