When looking back at your old work, you can feel upset. Disappointed in what you thought was good back then.
Some look back and compare and are like “I’m so glad I’m better now” or they look back and cringe and get annoyed.
Neither really works.
We should instead look back and see our journey of growth.
I can look at published work from 5 years ago and get angry at myself. Or I can look back at 5 years ago, 3 years ago, 1 year ago, and today and not compare or trash, but instead see the progression. The journey. The growth.
I believe in learning through doing. There’s a lot to be learned in a classroom but if you never do anything, you won’t progress. We learn from our mistakes. We learn what doesn’t work. What we don’t enjoy.
If I never wrote failed blogs, I’d never do this successful one.
If I never wrote failed books, I’d never one day write my most successful one.
The sad thing for creators is that our growth is nearly always done in public. You’re on display in ways that others aren’t (or can at least avoid should they wish).
The easy answer: Don’t put your work out there.
But you can’t hide your work away until it’s perfect because “perfect” for you will change as you do. And besides, perfection doesn’t even exist.
“Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Perfectionism kills dreams. The fear of failure kills dreams.
“I’ll just do one more edit. I’ll just wait until I’m better at XYZ…” – You’ll be waiting and editing forever…
I’d rather do and publish and look back and cringe, than never do, never publish, never grow or learn.
It may sting in the process, but you learn from it if you keep your eyes open, your heart right, and do what you do for the right reasons.
Someone once asked me if I regret publishing my first book because I later republished it twice as new editions. My answer is no, not at all. Why? The books may be flawed but they were my best back then. I don’t think I’d have written better books without first writing those.
They were the leg up I needed, too. They gave me confidence in myself and my abilities and gave me job opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
And yes, I could have written them and not published them. You can still grow from unpublished things. But the problem with that is there’s nothing pushing you to grow. There’s no real reason to because no one is watching.
And how are you to receive criticism and praise and know what works and what doesn’t without an audience? Without this data, this information, I wouldn’t be able to analyse my work in quite the same way.
And again, there are teachers. Study and a teacher will help you to grow. Yes, they will; they should. But remember that as a creator, especially a writer, you won’t be writing for academics and scholars who understand conventions and rules and structure etc. You’re writing for the average Joe. And so who better to learn from, and who better to read your work for you, than the average Joe?
So yeah, I just wanted to share that you should not look back at your past creations with anger, resentment, guilt, or whatever else. It should show your growth. Your bravery to put yourself out there. Your dedication to your craft and getting better.
We learn through creating, time and again; putting it out on display, time and again; and seeing what works and what doesn’t. It’s a simple formula that works, if you can just withstand the icky bits in the middle.
Keep at it. Keep moving forwards.