Over the last year or two, I’ve been reading and hearing what writers have had to say when they look back on their early work. The tone of their reflections is, generally, anguish.
It’s as if the writing that they did early in their careers causes them physical or psychic pain. Many of them seem to want to disown their early work. Worse, some think the quality of their writing will slide back to that of their early work.
For many writers, that’s danger of looking back. And, to be honest, I don’t understand their reactions.
What you wrote 10 years ago or five years ago or even two years ago isn’t a reflection of the writer you are today. As Stephen King said, there’s a reason it’s called juvenalia. That writing is from a time when you were learning your craft. You were making mistakes, learning from them, and then making new mistakes.
You were slowly, steadily becoming a better writer. You were developing a voice and a style.
Very little of what you wrote at the beginning of your writing career, or even when you started writing, will hold up today. I can point to maybe a half dozen articles and essays that I wrote from 1989 to 1998 that I’m still proud of.
If you feel the urge to look back at your past writing, don’t be embarrassed by it. Think of it as the stepping stones that led you to where you are today. That work was done by the writer you were, not the writer you are.
Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.
Photo credit: Dani Vincek