On the benefits of reading old work

Photo source: Gratisography

Photo source: Gratisography

I’m so glad I started doing Throwback Thursday with my writing. I have been going through my old stuff, which is something I had wanted to do for a while. I’m rediscovering my love and joy of writing. And I’m revisiting my thinking back then on why I felt compelled to write and how I saw my life play out.

All this distance from my writing, I can actually look at it clearly. I can analyze what I like and what I don’t, what works and what doesn’t. I can look at it like anyone else’s writing without being attached to it or feeling defensive.

I had always seen myself as a great writer, as a person who had a way with words. I could definitely always express more through writing than speaking. I saw my teenage writing self as a great confident writer, who had gotten published and received awards.

Currently I am working on my first novel. While I’m rewriting and editing, I have visions of being the next great American (or even international) writer. I see myself on the New York Times Best Seller list. I see Nobel prizes in my future. Don’t all writers?

Reading my old work has been a serving of a monstrous piece of humble pie. I had one realization: I suck. Yes, the stories and poetry I wrote made sense, but there were lots of mistakes, pace issues, descriptions that went on too long, lack of editing, clichés, banal topics. This list could go on but you get the picture. I thought I was a hot shot just waiting to be discovered. Here’s the thing. I’m not. I may be a decent writer. I may know some of the rules, but I have to work and think hard just as anybody else.

I’m glad I realized this before I sent out my manuscript too early into the world. Now I know where I should focus my editing and rewriting. I know I need to make my writing tighter. My characters need to be completely relatable. While I can allow myself visions of greatness, I cannot let it cloud my judgment. I need to be able to look at my writing objectively and be honest with myself. Is this any good? Is this interesting? If it wasn’t me writing this, would I read it?

Sometimes the truth hurts.


3 thoughts on “On the benefits of reading old work

  1. This post is great!

    I have been journaling since third grade, when I look back it is so humbling and interesting to see my life from my own perspective.

    Writing is such an enormously satisfying thing, I hope to become better and better as well. Thanks for sharing these insights.


  2. I love to go back and fine old pieces and read them and rearrange them these days its like finding hidden treasure and its exciting – of course some are not so good but that’s ok now is the time I can actually attend to them and hopefully make them into something special and delightful to share with others with out embarrassing myself.


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