That Awkward Moment When...You Read Your Old Work

Monday, April 07, 2014

If you're a serious writer, you have experienced that awkward moment when you look back on something you once wrote.

You remember writing it.  You recall the emotions you felt, the adventure you embarked on in your mind.  You remember how truly wonderful it was, how each word choice was exemplary, how the setting was incomparable.

But then you actually read it.  And... it's not quite what you remember.

There's a strange blend of horror, denial and embarrassment.

Quite simply, you're mortified.  No one can ever see this.  You don't even want to see it!

Let's face it, friends.  Sometimes, we write things that will only end up existing to help us learn to write better.  Sometimes, the worst thing we ever write is what is going to put us on the right path.  And other times, the best thing we ever write will have no place in the manuscript we're working on.

This just about sums it up for me.
(By the way, I think I'm Mike.)
But how do we go about learning from our previous writing experiences?

My answer is twofold:
Humility & Tenacity.

I have a tendency to look at old pieces of writing and get angry with myself because I am a perfectionist. We will all make mistakes!  And I still have so much to learn.  Expecting perfection is not healthy, but pursuing excellence is.  We should approach our work with humility, accept the fact that we need advice and help and turn to others.

Confession: It took me years to finally showcase my books and stories because I was afraid of rejection.  What I really did, however, was set myself back because I missed those opportunities to get feedback.

Writers need readers.  

So trust your readers and take every chance you can get to seek advice and feedback.  This doesn't mean that you have to listen to every comment you get, but you will be a wiser writer if you seek out readers.

So be tenacious.  Keep writing and working on places where you know you need to improve.  I have to do this every time I look back on a story or piece of work.  The trick is to keep writing with tenacity, seek readers with humility and keep pursuing excellence through feedback and critique. (The value of critique is one of the many lessons I learned from debate.)

Do you have any experiences with this?  How do you overcome "that awkward moment"?


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  1. This is so true on so many levels, Ciera. Thank you so much for penning out these thoughts!

    1. Thanks, Razi! I think this is really applicable for both writing and debate, which I'm sure you know ;)

  2. This was really encouraging to read! Yeah, I often get discouraged when I reread my writing...but I try to stifle my inner-editor (who doesn't have a very loud voice when it comes to grammar mistakes, thankfully and unfortunately). I just keep plugging away and save the editing for later.

    1. I'm so glad! I know from personal experience that it can often be discouraging to look back on work and critique it to pieces. But always keep writing! That's the best way to get better. ;)

      I wish you the best!

  3. Great post! Yeah, I've definitely been there. Normally, I just spend a lot of time laughing and a lot of time being glad that I never showed those stories to anyone.

    1. Same! What kind of stories do you write, Alexa?

    2. Oh everything. Contemporary, dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi, plans for some historical. You name it, I've probably written it. What about you?

    3. That's fantastic! I really like dabbling in various genres to expand my style. My favorite is historical fiction, but I also write contemporary fiction, fantasy, dystopian, YA adventure and steampunk. ;)