Tip #40: Hindsight And Self-improvement

“Of course my vision is 20/20, officer. I’m driving in hindsight!”

Today I went back and had a look at my first writing tip on this blog. Ouch! Re-reading something you wrote back then can be painful. This is true of both fiction and non-fiction. Could any of us read one of our old school essays without wincing?

What should you do with your dusty old writings? There are a number of tempting options: burn it, revise it, ignore it.

Binning your old work

50 torn

You may feel so embarrassed about your old work that you want to destroy it, hide it from prying eyes forever. This would be a loss to you and any fans you accumulate along the way.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to go back and have a look at J K Rowling’s first school essay for English Literature? It would probably look something like this: “To conclude, War and Peace is a naff book because WHERE ARE THE BLOODY WIZARDS??”

One day, somebody might want to read your first short story. They can get a sense of the journey which led to you becoming #1 best-selling author in the world, living in a solid gold mansion on top of Buckingham Palace.

It also lets you look back and see how far you have come.

Revamping the oldies

Another, less drastic option is to edit your past writing. You might want to re-submit it to a publisher or update it on your blog. This is a good option because you get a like-new story or novel, without all the time it takes to craft a truly new one.

The drawback is that editing previously completed work might still be a waste of time. What if you used that time to write something completely new? You would still benefit from greater experience and, rather than having one updated story, you would have two.

Letting old dogs lie

So you could just leave you old writing as it is. It might feel like you are wasting those words you wrote, but they serve a purpose. They have value in the sense of what you learnt while creating them.

The experience is already yours and it will reflect in your new writing. So ignore the actual written words. How good is the plot? How special are the characters? If the story deserves revisiting, do so. If not, let it lie.

What do you think about your past writing? How far do you feel you’ve come?

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11 thoughts on “Tip #40: Hindsight And Self-improvement

  1. When I started this blog I pulled out a notebook of my teenage poetry. While most of it is totally cringe-worthy, one or two of them were actually pretty good. I think it’s kind of cool to look back even if it’s only to have a laugh! I say keep the old and press on with the new. But hey, I’m just not that easily embarrassed so… 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wise words! There’s a story I started writing in my second year at uni which got to around quarter-novel length. I look back on it with fondness, but don’t know if I’ll ever finish it.
      As a writer, I feel like I’ve changed a lot since. If I did press on it wouldn’t be the same story.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There was a time I thought about studying law, my dad was a lawyer. Not a trial lawyer, he practiced estate planning and family law. He was also a wonderful storyteller and I think I inherited all of that from him! You must be nearing the end of term, best of luck with your exams, etc!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m re-cycling my previous fantasy trilogy into this current project as history distorted in legends and recorded in tomes reckoned by most learn’d folk as obscure and badly written!….I even plan on having some of the characters turn up in minor walk-on roles- recycling is good. Best of luck with those exams too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been writing since early childhood and automatically binned my work as soon as it was ‘finished’ (1st draft level). Sometimes I didn’t read it through and I certainly didn’t want anyone else to see it. I enjoyed the process and was keen to move on to the next one. I like to think the time I spent on those early ‘creations’ wasn’t wasted, though it could be argued I should stick to the ‘binning’ for quite some time.

    Liked by 1 person

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