It’s Important to Embrace Your Old Writing

Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

The first thing I can remember writing was a short story. I was nine years old and in the fourth grade. I’d been a voracious reader for years already, so maybe it was natural I’d fall in love with writing too.

One day, my teacher gave us a creative writing assignment. It’s the first of its kind I was ever given. It was around Easter time, so that was our theme. It was only meant to be, at most, a page long.

I turned in five.

I don’t remember many details about the story, but I know it featured a magical Easter Bunny that was hopping around, granting people’s wishes, and creating all kinds of chaos. My teacher said it was really creative. She kept it for a while and after that, I’m not sure what happened to it.

I wish I’d asked for a copy. My first piece of genuine writing! It’d be so fun to re-read it and share it with my children.

Not much later, I wrote my first poem. I’d always had a rocky relationship with my parents, and once I hit double digits and got my period at 11 years old, things only got worse. I needed an outlet. Naturally, I turned to writing.

I titled the poem My Life is Not a Drag. I don’t remember anything about it but that. I wrote it to try to cheer myself up, listing things in my life I was thankful for, or that made me happy.

I do remember that I wrote a lot about my cats. And books, of course. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit.

I look back on my first forays into writing with nostalgia, but if I still had either of those pieces, chances are, they’d be objectively awful. What does a young child know about grammar, or how to write a good story or poem? Next to nothing. What I did know, though, was imagination and wonder.

And the all-consuming need to write down my thoughts.

I’m much older now, and I’ve got the rules of grammar (mostly) down pat. I also know how to tell a good story — I think. Imposter Syndrome is often a bitch, but even I’ve been proud of some of the things I’ve been writing this year. I feel like I’ve hit a really good groove with my writing, consistently putting out quality pieces.

I didn’t reach this point easily. It’s taken a lot of work. Every blog post, poem, short story, or half-finished novel has been practice for the next piece. With everything I write, I only get better.

I used to be ashamed of the poetry I wrote when I was younger. I’d look back on it and cringe. Did I really think these were good? I’d ask myself. The rhyme schemes were cliché, the imagery overdone, and I was definitely trying too hard. I’d have to constantly stop myself from impulsively deleting them. But I knew if I did, I’d regret it. I filed all my old poems away into a separate folder and didn’t look at them for years.

I recently re-read them. All of them. My former criticism still stands; they are definitely not something I’d be proud to submit to poetry magazines. Nonetheless, I am proud of them. Within them I can see the poet I aspired to be, the poet I’m on the road to becoming.

If I hadn’t written my first poem as a 10-year-old with too many feelings to know what to do with, then I wouldn’t have written my angsty, gothic poetry as a teenager with even more feelings. If I hadn’t written those poems, I wouldn’t have gone through my Renaissance, where I re-branded myself as a poet, moving away from rhyming completely and only writing in free-verse. If I hadn’t written those poems, I wouldn’t have written the poetry I’m so proud of today.

I don’t read my first poems with embarrassment anymore. I read them and think, good job, past me, for sticking with it. They are the cornerstones without which I wouldn’t exist today.

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