Monday, October 17, 2016

3 Ways To Embrace The Writer You Used To Be

Stephanie here! Even though we haven't been blogging, it's been a busy few weeks here on Go Teen Writers! Not only did the blog get a makeover, but I created a free story workbook tutorial for our Go Teen Writers Notes subscribers.

Jill, Shannon, and I have also been reading all the entries to the We Write Books contest. We're working together to pick the top three, and that list will be posted on Wednesday. After that, I'll email out feedback.

Today, I'm really excited to have young writer, Alicyn Newman with us. She's talking about those old writing projects that make us cringe. Something I think we can all relate to!

Alicyn Newman is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in creative writing at her home college after twelve years of homeschooling. She started taking writing seriously sometime during middle school, but had an inherited reputation for storytelling long before that. Her non-writing alter ego leads a double life as both a violinist and fiddler. She’s also a chocolate enthusiast, a hugger, and a rookie blogger. You can find her at her blog, So I Write, where she posts about writing, books, and grace.

We all have that old writing project that makes us want to crawl under our bed with a tub of ice cream when we think about it.


Or, if you’re like me, you might have several.


They make us cringe. We look back on all the plot holes, the flat characters, the awkward sentence structuring, and we think, “How did I not notice that?” These feelings only intensify when you remember that you shared that writing in its raw, first-draft state with a couple of friends (trust me, I know).


These feelings are hard for us perfectionistic, driven, and often insecure writers to get past. We want our writing to be clear, unique, and strong, worthy of a publisher’s attention. When our past writing doesn’t reflect those qualities, we take it like a punch in the gut – like it defines our identity as writers.  


But allow me to offer you a different outlook.




What would happen if, instead of shoving those old projects into some discreet computer file or dusty box under the bed, we instead learned to embrace them for what they are: the bottom rungs of a ladder we are climbing as we progress in our writing?


A ladder without its first few rungs would be a little hard to mount, don’t you think? They’re just as essential to its makeup and usefulness as our old writing projects are to our whole practice of the craft. The old projects are the bottom rungs of your ladder, the steps supporting you as you climb higher. They expose your growth. Without them, you wouldn’t be where you are now.


You had to start somewhere.


All humans began as crying, helpless babies who needed to be cleaned up by the gentle hands of nurses. A professional ballerina started out as a stumbling five-year-old, gripping the ballet barre for support. A musician’s first scale book was creased and worn from daily practices.


Beginnings are awkward, but necessary. Why not embrace them?


Here are three suggestions I offer for those of you who look back on your old writing and feel discouraged – myself included. Whether you’re searching for the gumption to step up your game as a writer but can’t get past your previous projects, or whether you’re simply here for encouragement, these are for you.


Look for the good stuff.

Your old writing project(s) can’t be all bad. For a moment, push aside the flaws and allow the good points to surface. Is there a character that, though not well developed, still has potential? Is there a particular sentence or paragraph that sticks out, because it is, actually, well written? And – here’s a big point – did you write the whole story?


When I was young, I wrote entire stories, no matter how flawed they were. Now, since my focus is on perfecting the content, I struggle to complete my projects. When I was young and writing imperfectly, at least I was fearless. Maybe that was you too. Maybe, by embracing what we wrote in our fearlessness, we can find the art of writing fearlessly again.


Use your old writing projects.


My first fully-written story featured a minor side character who was a bully. A year later, I recycled this character and tweaked him a bit so he became one of the main characters for a different story, and this time, he was a victim of bullying. Based on this example, is there anything (or anyone) from an old story that you can recycle? Can you pull a character or an idea from something old and use them in something new and fresh so they don’t go to waste?


Find the next step, and take it.


Now that you’ve got your feet firmly planted on the bottom rungs of your ladder, what can you do to keep up the climb? What are some ways you could advance as a writer, rather than staying where you are? My suggestion is to start small. Journaling, penning poetry, getting involved with other writers, and free writing in your spare time are just a few of the many ways that you can work up to the novel of your dreams.


Remember to observe, to question, to listen. Inspiration is everywhere. Be patient with yourself too. It’s okay to take baby steps up the ladder toward your ultimate goal. One rung, two rungs, three. Find the pace that works for you.

You’re never alone if you feel discouraged with your writing. But your past doesn’t define you. Every writer walks a path of continual growth, requiring continual work. So persevere, and you’ll get there. Embrace your beginnings for what they are: the foundation of your art, the bottom rungs of the ladder you’re climbing. Allow yourself the freedom to grow, and never stop writing.

What's something you're doing to help you grow as a writer?

28 comments:

  1. YAY YOU GUYS ARE BACK!!!! I've missed y'all over these past two weeks, so much so that I've been refreshing the page for the past hour as I waited for this post. :) yeah, maybe I'm a little excited.

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  2. Great post! I've missed this blog so much. It's great to see you all back. :)

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  3. LOVE that you talked about recycling old characters... it's something we don't hear much about, but I love doing it! I was thrilled to bits when I saw that you called it out in your post. Well done!

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    1. Thanks, Olivia! I thought, "Surely I'm not the only one who does this," so I'm glad you could relate! It's so fun to be able to revamp an old character and use them in some exciting, new way.

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  4. Thank you for the lovely article, Alisyn! Like every other writer out there, I have a stash of old projects that I would never, ever show anyone. But, like you said, there are bits and pieces of them that are good. Thanks for the reminder to look for them. Great article!

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    1. Thank you, Olivia! I think it all comes down to simply trying to look for the positive in everything. It's a reminder we all need. I'm glad you liked the article!

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  5. I love this post. I've considered recycling a scrapped story and this has given me the encouragement to do so!

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    1. I'm so glad, Sarah! Thank you, and best of luck with your story!

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  6. I love this post too. I was scrolling through my docs and trying not to think "ARGH!" But you're right, the first rung on a ladder! And they do have potential, and they WERE when I could finish a story and write even with my flaws! Thank you. <3

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    1. You're so welcome, Emma. Thank YOU! I'm glad you were encouraged. (And trust me, I've been there many times - "ARGH" is so accurate). Keep writing!

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  7. Great post Alicyn, so many good ideas! Thanks.

    The new look is awesome too!

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  8. "Beginnings are awkward, but necessary. Why not embrace them?"

    THIS LINE. I JUST. CAN'T.

    ASJDKFLHAKJSDFHKJAWEHFL. *flails and flops helplessly*

    Thank you so much for this post!

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    1. *huge grin* You're so welcome, Hannah! I'm glad you liked it!

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  10. What a great post, Alicyn! I'm so glad you got the chance to write something. :) I especially liked the analogy of rungs on a ladder. Like everyone, I have plenty of things I look back on and cringe. But those were my beginnings. They got me to where I am. And, like you said, there is actually a lot that I like about those old stories, despite the cringing moments.

    Writing has been really rough for me lately, and I want to get back more fully into it. However, the one thing I have done consistently is blog, and blogging over at theinkloft.blogspot.com has made a world of difference in my writing.

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    1. Thanks, Rachelle! Glad you liked the post. I've had some rough periods in my writing lately, too, and have turned to blogging a little bit because of it. I'm hoping to make it a more regular practice. Happy writing!

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  11. Oh, lovely post :) I love recycling old characters from old stories... or even taking an old story and totally rewriting it :) one of my best stories I wrote came from an old "trash" story I had written when I was littler. You know... L. M. Montgomery did a lot of reusing plots and characters in all her novels and short stories... it's funny to read the same story over and over in many of her different series ;)

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    1. Thank, Keturah! Oh, I need to go read some more of L. M. Montergomery's work...I *finally* read the Anne of Green Gables series last year, and it was absolutely delightful.

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    2. Agreed! The Anne of Green Gables books are so charming.

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  12. Recycling is exactly what I am doing with my fantasy series. I originally wrote some of it a *long* time ago and then did nothing with it until I dusted it off for a writing group a couple years ago. I thought it was pretty good already but some in the group gave suggestions to make it even better. Now it's grown way beyond in scope from what it originally was. It's not yet published (far from it) but I enjoy all the ways it has grown. Thanks for this post!

    God bless, Anne Marie :)

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    1. That's exciting, Anne Marie! I'm glad your story got a second chance to reach its full potential.

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    2. Glad you liked the post, Anne Marie! That's really cool about your story. There's something so satisfying in being able to look back and see how one's story has grown and developed.

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  13. I loved this, Alicyn! You made such good points - and I'll definitely be using them! Thanks :).

    (also, GTW is back! Yay! :D)

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Savannah! I'm so glad you liked it, and found it helpful. Happy writing!

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  14. Ah, I relate to this so much! I've been writing seriously since I was 14, but I first began storytelling as young as 5 or 6, so there are definitely some projects that make me want to curl up and cry. :p But you're absolutely right: if I hadn't written those projects, I wouldn't have had anywhere to start to get to where I am now.

    Thanks for the awesome post!


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

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