The danger of looking back

SONY DSC 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

Collaborating with other writers, in real time, with EtherPad

collaborate While writers have the reputation of being solitary figures, tapping away at keyboards in small rooms, we sometimes have to collaborate with other writers. And sometimes we need to do it while an idea or document is hot.

Collaborating in real time can be tricky. You just can’t email word processor files around and hope to quickly or efficiently work together.

A number of online tools, like Google Drive and Draft make real-time collaboration easier and cheaper. I know a number of writers who have embraced those tools for working with other writers and with clients. But not every writer uses those tools, and not every writer wants to.


A few links for the end of the week

3 books that can help you master Evernote

Evernote logo Evernote is a useful and flexible tool for anyone, especially writers. You can use Evernote to record your research, outline your writing, hammer out drafts, collect links and citations, manage your tasks, and more.

It can be a bit challenging to get up and running with Evernote. And, if you’re like me, you sometimes overthink things and that makes the process of working with a tool like Evernote a bit more difficult. A good guide, in the form of a good book, can help.

For the longest time, there was a dearth of books in English about Evernote, even though there seemed to have been a cottage industry of books about Evernote in Japan. That’s changed. There are a number of titles in English about Evernote. Some are good, some not so.

Here’s a quick look at three of the better books (in English) about Evernote that are on the market.


Holding on to your passion, and letting go when the time comes

agonizing Passion is a funny thing. It’s easy to become passionate about a subject or a style of writing or a publication that you’re working with. But the fire of that passion can also be easily dimmed or extinguished, often due to circumstances that are beyond your control.

Throughout your career, you’ll definitely find your passion waxing and waning. Holding on to that passion and nurturing it will make you a better writer. But so will letting go when the time comes.