Writing Tips

Writing Tips: Read Your Oldest Piece

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Recently, I posted “Writing Tips: What’s on Your Desk?” and I had a great time reading about all of your writing spaces. Ironically, however, I have to admit that my desk is not normally that clean. I’ve recently moved places, and moving gave me the opportunity to be that clean. (Maybe in a few weeks, I’ll take another picture.) Us artists seem to generally be messy people (even though we ALWAYS know where our stuff is.)

During my move, I found a lot of old paperwork in folders and binders, and yesterday I decided to go through them and reorganize them. This was the piles of book notes I was creating:

Among these papers, the oldest piece of writing I could find was a written assignment I wrote in sixth grade (2002-2003). I think it’s great to read what we’ve written previously, because it shows how we grow, so I thought I’d share the beginning of mine. (I found six pages, front and back, so it’d be a lot to put on one post.) I’m not editing it either, so you can see how I’ve grown, and I think you all should dig through old works, and do the same. You’ll see how much you’ve grown (and you will feel great!) Then, you’ll know, without a doubt, you’re still growing, and that’s a great writer feeling too.Β 

So here we go:

“I want to put something down on this paper right here, but what I am, what I feel, can’t. There isn’t a word to describe it. I’m so confused on what life is, or what it’s sopposed to be. I guess life isn’t supposed ‘to be’ anything. Life takes turns in unexpected ways. And that, that is what happened to me. It started as a normal day. Wake, take Shower, blow dry hair, say bye to dad and dog. Not my mom, we fought last night about how my friend, Angel, supposily got drunk. Thats not why shes in the hospital. I know, it sounds weird a girl named Angel, but got drunk. I don’t really know how to explain, except that when we were little I couldn’t say Angelia so I turned out saying Angel, on account of my grams always called me that, so I all ready knew how to say it.”

You may see a lot of grammatical errors in that paragraph. I sure did. But the main thing I noticed was how I began a story. It read like my personal diary. I started to write to explain my feelings, and it turned into something else completely. What I find interesting is I think this is the time where writing turned serious for me. Instead of writing my emotions out, I wrote so my emotions could come out.Β 

Reading your old works can teach you more about your writing style than you might have thought about.Β 

Have a great Tuesday! I’m excited for the Undergraduate Reading Series tomorrow night. I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes.


25 thoughts on “Writing Tips: Read Your Oldest Piece

    1. I started to look back again recently (feeling nostalgic) and I was surprised to find how much depth I had in what I saw about the world and myself as a teenager. I deal with writer’s block often. Sometimes it helps that feeling of being lost as a writer and trying to find your way back.

  1. I occasionally look through my first idea notebook from high school. Though, I recently figured out where my parents put a large satchel full of my 2nd grade ‘books’. All horrible joke books, animal books,and childish stuff that only a 7-year-old would think so important that he has to tell his entire class. It’s pretty fun and relaxing to step that far back into the past.

  2. Good for you in reorganizing. I need to do that as well. Recently I came across my first published piece from more than twenty years ago. I wrote a narrative piece about seeing manatees for the first time. My husband took pictures. The local paper (where my husband worked as graphic artist) took the piece and published with his photos. I almost cringed when I saw the article and had to force myself to read it because I was certain it wasn’t very polished. Fortunately, I read it and discovered it wasn’t so bad. As with you, somehow I knew how to tell a story years before I even considered writing as a career choice.

  3. This sounds like it could be very helpful. The next time I’m at my parents’ house, I’m going to dig into my boxes of old school work… I would love to go back and read some of it.

  4. I wish I still had the stories I wrote when I was starting to pick myself back up off of the floor after my first bout with Depression. That was a dozen years ago, and I think those stories helped save me. They certainly helped rebuild me when I was ready. I don’t think they were all masterpieces, but they were very important to me.

    In the years since I wrote those stories I’ve moved seven times and destroyed/worn out several computers, and I don’t know where any of the stories are now. I can see improvement when I look back through my journals, though, and when I go back and read my earliest blog entries.

    I should do this more often. Thank you for the reminder!

  5. Great idea, but I usually canabalize the best from my failures, put them in a notes file, and delete the real offal. It is a good confidence builder though…to see how much improvement has been made over time and through effort.

    1. Your method reminds me of poet, C.A. Conrad. He trashes everything after his final draft is complete, including unused portions of the work he created.
      His method is intimidating (although I’m unsure that’s the right word to describe it.)
      I could never part with old writings, because I often return and find them incredibly useful.

  6. iInteresting timing…also very reassuring as I was having doubts about the wisdom of my plans. Had a turf-out last night and discovered masses of notes myself like you I guess. And I thought it was all safely stored on my PC! Interesting indeed looking at old work. However! My more ambitious plan is to start audio typing to PC drive “recorded stories” I wrote literally years ago, and after the un-backed up “story disc” got corrupted and loads of writing permenantly lost, I recorded later work onto…wait for it…cassettes!!!! Hmm…no age comments please!!! I’ve recently bought a personal cassette player with a view of transferring everything safely on the laptop before the cassettes stop working (assuming it’s not too late already! Haven’t dared check yet πŸ™‚ ) some of that writing dates back years and years so should be interesting and hearing myself reading it all these years later…scary!! lol πŸ˜‰ I think I sing on them too! Super scary!! Main point is though, are those stories still going to sound as good now as then? I was very proud of them. They formed a basis for some of today’s work so span many years. I’ve not plucked up courage to check them out yet…many happy hours are recorded on there…don’t want to shatter the memories, but really really want to save the stories! And maybe modernise and utililise for future works πŸ™‚ Maybe I will get brave enough now I’ve read your post πŸ™‚

    1. I understand the computer corruption thing myself. I own a drive that isn’t connected to my laptop for that very reason. I’ve gone through about 4 laptops myself.
      I hope you do check out your stuff! Let me know how it does if your courage comes to you :] You can do it!

      1. Having just lost an important document that wasn’t even for me lol due to not backing up – not something I’m usually too slow about – I am reminded of the importance of my external hard drive! Unfortunately too late in the day in this case πŸ˜‰ I think I may have some explaining to do and it won’t be pretty!!
        I too have gone through about 4 laptops, and am now looking for probably my 5th πŸ™‚ This one isn’t powerful enough to handle Photoshop properly and crashes all the time. It doesn’t seem keen on MS office either…or the internet…or….! Get the picture! Nothing to do with my desire for a touch screen one lol…nothing at all! Just not thinking too hard about the cost of updating all my software that prob’ won’t work on Windows 8!! I will check out my stuff…but it would help if I remembered when I’m in a position to do so rather than when I’m at work πŸ˜‰

  7. “Instead of writing my emotions out, I wrote so my emotions could come out. ”

    That’s exactly what prompted me to become a writer. πŸ™‚ It’s incredible how that initial motive kind of evolves into a lifelong passion.

  8. This is a great point. I sometimes forget to think about how my writing has changed, as well as hopefully improved, over time. Blogging seems like the ideal way to review your most recent growth in writing. You have only to look back at your first posts!

  9. Just wanted to comment because of the photo of your piles of writing. I saw that on the home screen and said “Oh my! I’ve done that!” Looks a lot like how I compiled my capstone paper for my undergrad degree. I took over the whole living room floor with my notes lined up, and in stacks in order.

  10. I have most of my stuff that I did over the past ten years or so backed up on a flash drive (been through several computers since then). My older handwritten writings have mysteriously disappeared. I would really like to locate the novel that I wrote in High School, but like lots of other things from that time period they are gone forever. To all writers in this computer age — backup, backup, backup. I talked with one writer who was devastated by the loss of her outline for a novel when her laptop crashed into oblivion. So never ever trust a computer.

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