Do you ever reread something you’ve written, after it’s published?
Neither do I.
But it isn’t because I can’t stand reading my own work. I have fun writing things, and they’re equally fun to read, if I distance myself from them long enough before I do.
I don’t reread my work — or try not to — because I’m not interested in looking back.
The thing is, you get to a point in writing where your focus shifts a little bit. You’re less interested in doing things right and well … and instead, you spend most of your time just trying to be the best you’ve ever been.
I’ve written some pretty awful stuff in the past few decades. We’ve all just written terribly at some point.
But it’s easy to forget that your past writings aren’t a reflection of how well you can write right now. They are part of your past, and they are important. But you can’t judge the blog post you’re reading right now against the first blog post I ever wrote. It never got any views … partly because it just wasn’t good!
That’s right. My first ever blog post bombed. And 16-year-old me weeps.
However, that doesn’t mean the quality of my posts now match the value of that one. Far from it. I mean, I don’t know, you might disagree. But I’ve improved. And I probably wouldn’t have, if I’d taken my first years’ worth of poorly performing blog posts too seriously.
I do not look back. Not always. And neither should you.
Sometimes, looking back can be constructive. But you can’t move forward if you don’t turn back around.
If you’re looking back at your old work, reviewing your old performance, to marvel at how far you’ve come — then by all means, allow yourself that time to reflect. But don’t use this kind of experience to criticize yourself or to feed any self-doubt lurking in the shadows of your confidence.
You are not the writer you once were.
If you’ve kept up with your writing since you first started, I’m fairly certain you’ve gotten better at it. Persistence breeds improvement. Your job isn’t to remember all the terrible things you’ve written or tried to write or wish you’d never started. It’s to realize growth is hard, but the only way to do better than you ever have before is to keep going. Keep moving forward. Don’t keep hitting that backspace button. Make progress. Write something new. Stop holding onto the writings of your past.
Don’t miss what’s coming. Because your new ideas, your new perspective — it’s all waiting for you. Every writer has a history. Where you started isn’t where you’ll end — and the only way to differentiate between the two is to keep. Writing. More.
You can do it. I believe you can.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.