Every writer has a file of their old pieces. Short stories, poems, even old novels that as the person who wrote them, find them so cringeworthy to read again. It’s not because they’re sappy love letters or nostalgia you don’t want to visit, but because after dedicating so much time and passion into your writing, when you read your old work you realize how awful it was.
For so many, once you finish a piece, you want to be done with it and never touch it again which is rather easy if it became a published work. If it didn’t get published, it sits in a desk drawer or folder on your computer that you don’t want to look directly into.
It can be soul crushing to read old work and realize how bad it was when you’ve thought your writing was good for so long. However, it can also be a tremendous learning moment. After you’re done reading your work through gritted teeth, you can see where your work fell short, where your wording was off, and where you could’ve improved your plot. You take these things and learn from them.
You can also look back and be proud that your writing is no longer rotting dumpster fire and take pleasure in how much you’ve improved. If your writing isn’t improving and you know it needs to, you may need to take a workshop class, read more books on writing, and above all else, write more! You can only learn so much by studying and eventually you need to gain hands-on experience.
I’ll read some of my old unedited work and see that what I intended to be on the page wasn’t there. What I intended to be deep flowing streams of detail that rippled and reverberated throughout the page ended up really being little trickles plopping into a stagnant puddle. It’s disheartening but it gives me the opportunity to edit the pages and ensure they portray exactly what I want them to and learn to pay attention to that going forward. It gives me the opportunity to craft the piece into what I originally wanted it to be rather than live in ignorance to the word vomit it was. Just like Hemingway said, “the first draft of anything is shit.”