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?