Tag Archives: guilt that artists deal with

Help: I’ve Returned to an Old Piece of Writing, and I Can See Influences From My Past

20 Feb

Recently, I have truly enjoyed writing up my personal posts instead of focusing on writing or publishing tips. Sharing my story opened up a channel for me to hear your stories, and it was really nice getting to know more of you on a deeper level. If I continue this in the future, I hope to hear more from others. If you have an idea of a topic – any topic really – you can always comment below and suggest one. I will even credit your blog as the inspiration for the post. No matter what, thank you for reading and commenting. 

Today, though, I wanted to talk about a topic that is very much a personal twist on the writing spectrum. Yes, writing is always personal to the writer, but I wanted to discuss how certain writings can be influenced by a particular time in your life and/or how it can affect the writing process when you return to it later. The reason for this is simple: I’m currently going through it, and I wanted to talk about it in the hopes of reaching out to other artists who have experienced the same range of emotions I have,which include confusion, guilt, acceptance, and understanding.

If you follow my interviews, then you know I am already planning for which one of my novels will be published after Seconds Before Sunrise. (But I hope you’ll take a moment to check out Seconds Before Sunrise by clicking here.) Although readers might be expecting Death Before Daylight, I am moving towards publishing a new novel altogether before the last book of the trilogy. From this point on, I will be referring to this new novel as TMT.

When I went back to edit TMT, I found some surprises I wasn’t expecting:

There are some heavy influences that I could not see before. When I was originally writing it, I was in my freshman year of college. At the time, I could not see any correlations with my life in my science-fiction world. Now that I’ve been removed from the novel for a few years, I can interpret it more clearly. I can see old acquaintances in the characters. I can hear dialogue that sounds like a stranger I met. I can see where I mixed a scene together by blending a field by my dorm room and a forest by my old house. I can see my husky, Shadow, in the dog the protagonist cherishes.

This is Shadow - my buddy. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but he loved snow just as much as me.

This is Shadow – my buddy. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but he loved snow just as much as I do. (Probably more, of course.)

This was all unexpected, and – if I may be bold – difficult in many areas, because it brings up a lot of old memories I have since let go in one way or another. I believe this is a struggle many artists may face at one time or another. When we write in present time, we might not realize we have placed our friend in a novel as a protagonist’s cousin. Years later, after we’ve had a falling out with that friend, it is a struggle to return to the novel’s mindset where you must love that “cousin” you can now see was someone very real and dear to you but no longer is.

But it’s okay. There are many ways to accept these moments. They aren’t all bad. In fact, I would say most of it isn’t bad. As my posts normally go, I repetitively say, “It’s all about attitude.”

When you return to these older works, hoping to make them better, you can accept where the influences come from for what they are. Just accept them, and dive into it with the same passion you have today. Eventually, I have noticed that I am adding more influence from my current life into TMT, instead of letting my past life define it. It’s an interesting area to explore, because it’s the blending of me – my past, my present, and my future – and it brings a sense of serene acceptance.

Here are three thoughts that helped me through this:

A. Be prepared to feel this way. There’s nothing to be guilty or ashamed or feel any weirdness about. It’s natural. Think of it this way, it would be impossible to go sit in your high school parking lot without remembering a few times you were there. Art can be the same way. If you wrote it five years ago, don’t be surprised if memories from five years ago sneak up. It’s okay. Enjoy it, and change it if you want to.

B. You’re an artist – it’s bound to happen. You are inspired by life, after all.

C. If you are disturbed or upset, that’s okay, too. Put the writing down. Try not to be hard on yourself about it. The past isn’t always a place people are comfortable with. Write something new!

I actually asked about this topic on my Facebook Author Page, “Have you ever associated your novel (or a book that your have read) with a certain time in your life? If so, when you go back to edit it and/or reread it, have you seen influences you didn’t see before? Is this easy or difficult to comprehend and how do you think it affects the writing and/or reading process?”

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Here are two fantastic answers,

The J. Aurel Guay Archive: “I wrote half a novel during a very transitional time of life. I set it down for several years and when I came back to it, I couldn’t find the motivation to finish it because I had progressed through that stage. I will finish it eventually, but it will change fundamentally as they open questions on which the novel turns have been answered in my life. I just can’t write it from the same frame of reference anymore. You can find a snippet here.”

Tanya Taimanglo: “My romantic comedy, Secret Shopper was cathartic for me. It resembles so much of my life, although I insist it’s fiction. (It is). The death of my father, elements of a bad break up and finding real love made its way onto the page. It was written years ago, and when I do reread it, I cringe at how much truth I allowed out there and I’m reminded of how much growth I’ve made. In some ways, it’s like a journal I’ve made public. I can’t undo it, just embrace its truth and move on.”

What about you? Have you ever returned to a writing and saw past influences you didn’t see at the time of writing it? How did you cope with it?

~SAT

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