Leave a comment
July 26, 2010 by Sarah D.
Today while packing and decluttering, I came across about 40 or so 3 ½ inch diskettes full of my old writing, poetry, fiction, and essays, some spanning back to my first creative writing classes as an undergraduate at Miami University. Most of these works are too embarrassing to mention: a poem about words (how meta), a mystery story about mistaken identity (perhaps I was meant to be a genre writer), and some drafts of stories, thankfully, forgotten (my favorite was about dueling church-hymn song writers). Trust me: I found some awful, awful stuff.
But in these files I also found some interesting stuff, too: a very early draft of a story I rewrote and published just last year; some notes about a story I wanted to write—a story that wound up as part of my dissertation. Certainly my 18-22 year old self couldn’t have been entirely full of crap ideas.
I’ve fallen off the writing wagon for about a week. I’m ashamed to admit it. The process of moving halfway across the country has been all consuming, and the little writing I’ve accomplished in the past two weeks feels lackluster, as though my mind is in another place. (It is.) However, coming across these old files today has inspired me in an odd way. While these early writings will never see the light of day, not if I’d like to keep my dignity intact, I was struck by the sheer quantity of creative works I managed to get down on paper during my undergraduate years, when I was so busy doing other things, namely going out with my friends.
And, I was also struck by the thought that writers need practice—lots of practice—before they write anything of much value and worth. I’m encouraged by the fact that I’ve come a long way in so many years…and I recognized that I still have plenty of practice ahead of me. I’d be curious to know what my future self will think of the current novel I’m writing. Will my future self like it? Will she cringe? Will she file it away in a folder on her computer labeled “Storage,” not to be looked at again for another fifteen years?
Reading my old work was humbling. As I mention at some point in The 90-Day Novel, it’s best to banish all notions of your fiction’s greatness and, instead, cultivate your inner critic. With a bit of humility comes a good amount of clarity—and this is a lesson I wish I would have learned back when as an angsty, overconfident student I enrolled in undergraduate creative writing courses. To my old creative writing professors: My deepest apologies.