I have been writing since I was six years old. In the ensuing 36+ years, I’ve built up a decent library of stories, poems, scripts, novels and songs, each with varying degrees of quality and entertainment value. I still have in my possession nearly every creative piece I have ever written. The exceptions to this are a few handwritten pieces which got damaged by water in my basement, and a couple of items I wrote back in elementary school which were kept by the school to include in the library (the school I attended no longer exists as a school and I’m sure the little 10-page “book” was gone long before it closed down). Other than that, it’s all here on my computer or in a box in the basement, stored well above the water line. I also have notebooks filled with old story and poem ideas and an outline I put together in 1983 for a novel I subsequently never started (interestingly, this was before I was sure I was a “pantser”… yet, I never started this novel because I wrote the outline and therefore knew the ending).
When I’m in a creative rut or stuck for an idea, I’ll often go back and read some of my old work. Sometimes I do this to mine for additional ideas, perhaps a sequel or another story in the same universe focusing on a different character. Sometimes I do it to remember the creative moment in which the piece was born, in hopes that it will inspire another similarly-fruitful creative moment. Sometimes I do it just to make sure I am not reusing the same jokes. Sometimes I do it just to remember the positive comments received for the piece from readers.
There have been some instances where I have read the piece and decided that I could write it better now. In all cases, the re-write didn’t end well and I ended up abandoning it. There have been instances where I would read and read for hours and come away with nothing but a feeling of being emotionally spent, probably due to remembering the original inspiration for the sad, depressing poem or the angry, ranting storyline. Sometimes I read things and think, “Oh goodness, did I really write that? It’s awful!” or, “Wow, did I really think that when I was 13 years old? I was so dumb…” But sometimes, when I read things I wrote during extremely prolific or creative periods in my life, I come away rejuvenated and filled with a youthful sense of creative energy. I certainly don’t want to write the same way or the same things I wrote when I was a teenager, but I would love to have the boundless creativity and writing energy I had back then.
Do you go back and read your own writing to seek inspiration or to relive your younger days as a writer? Is this common? (Fittingly, I almost asked: “Am I normal?”)