Friday, June 24, 2016
Look Back To See Where You Stand As A Writer Today
When you find yourself a bit discouraged about your writing world, it's helpful to step back in time and see where you were 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ago.
Go back to some of your earliest writing projects and read them. Read them carefully. Use an editor's eye. Are you proud of them? Or are you cringing a bit because they seem a bit amateurish to you? Do you see that the topic and the points you made were good but the mechanics were pretty awful? Or maybe it's the other way around.
The fact is that most of us do grow as writers as the years slip by. We read books about writing. We receive critiques from other writers. We read other writers' work and soak up the good things from what they've written.We read blogs about writing. The problem is that the growth may be slow and we aren't even aware that we've moved a great distance from those beginning days to the present.
I hope you have kept all your writing both in your computer files and hard copies in a large leaf loose binder. If you haven't done so, I'm sorry to hear it. It is so very important to keep copies, both digital and hard copies of everything you write. Do you date the copies? I have to admit that is not something I did and now I wish I had. I know which pieces are from my early days of writing but someone who goes through my hard copies years from now will not. They might be able to tell the earliest writings from the latest just by quality of the piece. Or maybe not because whoever reads this later--grandchildren or great-grandchildren--are not going to look with the same eyes as she who wrote it.
When you look back to your early days of writing, how long did it take before you were actually published? Did it get easier as time went on and you grew as a writer? Did the quality of the publications get better as the years went on? I have always advocated that beginning writers start submitting to smaller publications because their chances of being accepted would be greater. Start there--yes, but then move on to better quality markets. If you start with the high dollar markets, your rejections are likely to be overwhelming and discouraging.
How about the amount of time it takes you to complete a short story or essay or memoir piece? Can you do it faster now than you did 10 or 20 years ago? Most likely, the answer is yes. The more we write, the easier and faster we can turn out a finished piece. Another sign of growth as a writer!
What about the mechanics of writing in those early pieces? Did you use a lot of cliches? I did! Did you use more passive verbs than active? I did. Did you sprinkle the piece with unnecessary words? I definitely did. Did you repeat the same idea using different words because your weren't sure your reader would 'get it?' I did that, too. I committed the sins of all beginning writers and I think most of you did, too.
We do travel great distances over the years that we write. It takes looking back and some assessment of those early days compared to right now before we are fully aware of how far we have traveled in our writing journey. After you've checked out those early writings and compared them to what you write now, give yourself a pat on the back. Whether it's been only a few short years or a good many, whatever you've achieved, you've earned by hard work. Maybe you feel like you've reached the pinnacle of your writing journey. I hate to put a pin into your balloon, but with every year that goes by, you should grow even more. We can get closer and closer to the top but I'm not sure we ever want to actually reach it. Where would we go next?
Spend some time this week-end looking back to see where you started and how far you've come. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.