How To Deal With Your Past, Published and Bad Writing

Sometimes I write trash.

How about you?  Does it ever happen that an essay, an article, a story, a chapter, even a whole novel turns out to be pure, unadulterated garbage?  No?  Well, You’re lucky.  Happens to me all the time.

What do you do when you find out you’re written something that is embarrassing?  How does that even happen?  We’re all fairly bright, rather well-read, in other words, not methane-breathers, right?

Realistically, we don’t put our work out there in the world if we think it’s bad, now do we?  So how does it happen?

Sadly—and perhaps gladly as well—it happens because we grow.  The work we published  as teenagers, or later in life didn’t seem that bad at the time, did it?Of course not.  We just outgrew it.

How about the things we wrote and, say, put up on a blog 6 or 7 months ago?  How bad could that be?  Sometimes we can judge, sometimes we can’t, but hindsight is golden, isn’t it?  Those old blog posts might have been a little clunky, but the spirit was good, and (see above) we aren’t idiots.  We just kind of outgrew what we wrote earlier. 


In most cases when you write something and post it on the Internet, you’ve started it.  “…like a snowball rollin’ down the side of a snow-covered hill.  It’s growin’…” 

Chances are it’s out of your control then, even if you can go back and change what is on your blog, others have looked, read, perhaps even copied.  Once it gets out there, it’s hard to control.

A few days ago I wrote about John Fowles, and the struggle he had getting his first novel, “The Magus” to light of day.  He wrote the book twice, and made a big hit with it both times.  His problem?  He didn’t think it was ready after all, even after it had critical success.

What’s the point?  Well, perhaps it is time for us to make deals with ourselves.  Perhaps it is time to say, “unless I stop growing, my writing will get stronger every time.  I may always find faults with my older work, but seeing the difference between then and now only affirms that I am growing.”

I think it’s worth a shot.

Now, I wonder how stupid this is going to sound to me in six months?

Your thoughts?


8 responses to “How To Deal With Your Past, Published and Bad Writing

  1. I’ve learned to become a big fan of my crappy writing. Once I’m able to identity what’s wrong with it, then I’m ready to move on, hopefully, to the next level. I look back on things I’ve written a month or two earlier and cringe. But that cringe shows me I’m on the right track. The day I look back and think my writing is the best it can be is the day I stop growing as a writer. I have so much to learn. I can only hope there will be many more cringes to come.

  2. What if one is are never happy enough with it? Does it mean it’s still crap (if it was in the first place) or just that one is overly just picky , insecure and/or under-confident? I don’t know sometimes when to stay stop. Or even ‘Why’ sometimes. Sigh.

  3. Sometimes I cringe in horror at stuff I wrote days, weeks, months, or years ago. Other times I’m pleasantly surprised.

    Either way, I’m usually thinking the exactly same thing, “Wow. I wrote this?!” 😉

  4. There are just a couple of questions to ask yourself, I feel:
    1. Is this what I was wanting to say. Do I think/feel the same way now?
    2. Is this the best way that it could have been said. Can I improve upon it now?
    3. Does it make the same point, revelation now as it did when I wrote it. Does it need changing because of a changed perspective of myself or my potential reader? Is there more information at hand?
    That’s critique. Not criticism. It is therefore ‘impersonal’. I’ll let those readers who don’t know any better indulge in the criticism.

    • Another option:

      Look at past writings the same way we look at photos of ourselves taken years and years ago . . . as a snapshot of who we were, not who we are. 😉

  5. P.S. If the last line offends, it may be the symptom either that:
    l. I don’t know what I’m talking about, and therefore I need to change.
    2. I do know what I’m talking about, and therefore it’s not only me that needs to change.
    Often, the feeling that comes with offense, is the best indication that something has to give, something has to give, something has to give.
    If we ever get to the point when are no longer offended, perhaps that will be the time that we have learned to profit by the changes that the offense pointed to as possibly being needed.
    I’m still for writing analysis being about the writing and not the person. And critique, generally is about the use of language rather than criticism of the person. And I’m taking that belief with me. Just my belief. Hope there has been no WTF’s, mentioned here, after all, this is the only and first time I have ever used such ‘letters’, and I am talking about the swearing not the swearer. grin grin Cheers.

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