Writing, painting (digitally, anyway), and other creative endeavors are some of the few activities where you can look back at your old work and see whether you’ve grown (or regressed!) since you began. Play an instrument and you can probably tell whether you’ve improved, or maybe you took the time to record yourself and post it to YouTube in a early bid to make yourself a star that flamed out amid endless laughter from friends and classmates… where was I?
At this moment I’m polishing up a prior work whose world I’m planning to go back to for some future stories, mostly because I like the setting and characters enough to hang out with them some more and see what they have to say. Because years had passed between that piece and me coming back to it, I somewhat expected rereading it to be like pulling the dusty cover off an old couch and discovering maggoty, rotting insides. I’d see countless mistakes staining every chapter, a molding frame that wouldn’t stand up to even a cursory inspection, and the general fetid air that comes from a shambling tale told dully.
But here’s the thing – it’s not bad! Things to clean up, sure, but they’re more akin to spare threads sneaking loose or some wood that needs a new stain. Hardly a total loss. In fact, I’d even say it’s readable!
Even with that, though, I can see where I’ve grown. The way I write scenes, now, more complete. The settings more evolved and detailed. So on and so forth. The fun part of this, though, is seeing that the early bars aren’t quite so low, and yet I’ve still leaped quite a bit higher on my latest efforts. In other words, I’m improving, but I didn’t start all that far back to begin with.
And that, I think, is the best part. You get a bit of a boost for yourself – realize you’re not as hopeless, and never were, as you might think you are at the lowest points. Rereading my old work helps give me the confidence to keep going. Those old stories are a measuring stick – not only for how far I’ve come since, but how far I’d already gone when I started.
So, if you have the chance or ability, take the time to look back at where you’ve come from. Might be you’ll laugh, might be you’ll shake your head, might be you’ll find inspiration to keep on going.