Growing as a Writer – You Will Hate Your Old Work

12/10/2018

Have you ever read something you wrote a while ago? Maybe a long while ago?

Ew, am I right?

Yeah, we all do that – and it’s perfectly normal!

Look we all want to win the Lottery, right. And I don’t mean the Powerball; I’m talking about the Best Seller, Award Winning, Great American Novel, Lottery. The one where the very first book you write takes you all the way to the top. Fame. Fortune. Groupies. SO MANY GROUPIES!

Everyone wants to imagine that their first novel is going to be some great classic that will go down in history and be a New York Times bestseller, but let’s be real, the odds of that happening are about as good as your odds are of winning the Lottery. Why? Because for most writers, the first thing you ever write sucks!

And the second thing sucks, but perhaps it sucks a little less. The next thing might be kind of crap too, and the thing after that, but if you keep writing, if you keep practicing, eventually, you will grow as a writer!

Look, I know I’ve talked about this before, but writing is not something you’re going to master on the first try. It’s a process that takes time, practice, and experience.

Yes, I’m sure you can think of a few examples of writers who wrote only one novel and went down in history as having written a canon masterpiece, but as I said, that happens as often as someone winning the Lottery. Sometimes it’s being in the right place at the right time, having the right editor, the right audience, but most writers are not going to have that kind of luck on the first try. And again – that’s okay.

I look back on my first manuscript and just want to DIE from all the cringe. Flat unmotivated characters/walking stereotypes, incomprehensible plot, shitty dialog, purple prose. And holy shit I let people read that manuscript! I sent that thing off to agents hoping to be published.

If you’re one of those agents – I am so, so sorry!

In the years since my first try at writing, I experimented with short stories, and unsuccessfully attempted to start other full-length novels, only to give up because I knew they weren’t good enough, but those efforts were not in vain. I still read that old work on occasion, and as painfully cringy as it is, I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer, how much I’ve learned and improved.

It was a long hard road to travel, but now at the end, I feel greater pride in how my craft has evolved, and how I, personally, have grown.

I can’t say what the future will bring. Maybe in the year 2048, when I’m walkin’ around on cyborg legs, I’ll pick up one of my old writing projects from the way-back year of 2018, and promptly kick over and die from all the cringe.

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