Almost everything that I wrote more than fifteen years ago no longer exists. The box containing my old notebooks and any school assignments I’d deemed worth saving disappeared during a cross country move. The world is probably a better place because of this.
A few things do survive—certain papers or stories that for one reason or another were transcribed to computer and managed to survive the steady upgrade of computers over the years. When I read these few survivors I cringe.
It’s not that my writing was bad, it was just…. It was unpolished, adjective-heavy, repetitive, sparse on meaningful description, and plot laden. It was young.
But—and this is important—it was full of ideas, and it was full of excitement.
As an adult, I’m better at taking a random idea—i.e., a writing prompt—and with time and patience working that into something useful. I’m better at revising a raw rough draft and molding it into something polished. But what I’m missing now, what those early books were full of, were ideas that sprung completely from my own head—ideas that I was passionate about developing.
Sure, some of those ideas have hung around. The ones I spent more time trying to tame were repeated enough that they are at least partially committed to memory. But when I think back to the ideas I lost, I find myself wishing that I was able to revisit some of the crazier ideas with the honed skills I have now.
Do you still have the stories, notebooks or ideas you came up with in your past? How far back? Do you find them helpful, or do they just make you cringe?
I’d love to hear your answers in the comments—or pop over to the Today’s Author Forum and talk about it with other writers.
I still have several of my old notebooks with the scratchy, hard to read handwriting detailing story ideas or listing one-line concepts I had as a teenager. Some of the writing is fading because I’d write in pencil or erasable ink or crayon -whatever I had available at the moment inspiration struck. Sometimes I will go back to these notebooks and pull out an idea, try to bring it into this decade in terms of maturity and concept, then try to write it out. Sometimes I just look at the ideas and shake my head, wondering what I was thinking at the time.
I do go back and re-read my old stories, poems and plays. Sometimes it’s inspirational and can spur more creativity. Sometimes it’s depressing as I remember where I was in life when I wrote the piece or as I look at it and wonder how I ever let another human being read such drivel. But usually I just try to enjoy them. Sure, they were written by me, but now, 30+ years removed from some of them, I can look at them in a different way as if a different person wrote them. It’s an interesting study in a way.
I *did* lose some completed items that were in boxes in the basement when we got water damage and it’s those lost pieces that bother me. In my mind, they are irreplaceable. Even if they were not fantastic/quality/amazing works, they were part of the writer I’ve become and were a portion of a written history of who I was as a person when I wrote them.
Recently I found an old poem I’d written. I was surprised actually because I didnt’ remember writing it, yet there was my name at the bottom of it. I was both surprised and delighted. (it pays to go through old notebooks now and then!)
I’ve lost many of these writings over the years, mostly as I upgrade computers and software. It’s a wide mix for me, some really good stuff and some writing I am happy never made anywhere. Still, it’s sometimes interesting for me to go back a replay my writing journey.
Some of my old stuff is good, some of it is cringe-worthy. I’m a real pack rat. I tend to keep everything.
Recently, my external hard drive, which is nearly ten years old, gave up the ghost. Luckily I’d backed it up the day before onto the Norton server. I’m going to be switching to one of the new external hard drives with a terabyte of memory. The thing will have more memory than my nearly ten year old computer!