I know you probably want to tuck all your old writing into a folder labeled “trash” but it can actually help you learn how to write better.
I think we all want to learn how to write better. And one way of doing that is by reading your old writing. Personally, I find this a little difficult to do. If you read my writing from a few years ago, you’d probably make a really uncomfortable looking face. So would I. In fact, I hate reading my old writing. It makes me feel horrible. Or at least it used to.
Because I’ve learned how useful it is to keep your old writing and read it from time to time.
Now, I know I’m not alone in this. On Tumblr, I once made a writer tag and asked people to share bits of their old writing. Needless to say, people thought I was evil. Actually, here are just a few comments I received about said tag:
As you can see, nobody enjoys reading their old writing. And I’m going to take that as a great thing. Why? Because it means they’re better writers now than they used to be.
Sure, it’s still a little painful to open that one document with over 40,000 words of pure clichéd young adult garbage, but I know it’s useful to me. So I do it anyways. And guess what? Doing that improves my self-confidence as a writer tremendously.
I’m serious. It’s good shit.
And not only that, it really helps me become a better writer. Here’s why you should read your old writing if you want to learn how to write better.
1. You can pinpoint where you’ve improved specifically
It’s really easy to see the really bad bits of your old writing. You’ll be able to see just where you sucked and that allows you to see how much you’ve improved in those specific areas.
For example, I used to suck at describing characters. I read my old writing and it’s the very typical description when the MC is standing in front of a mirror. Or I described another character with a huge paragraph that isn’t really needed. After reading those, I realized I’ve improved with character descriptions drastically.
I’ve learned to weave those descriptions into the story seamlessly while also making sure you know what a character looks like right away. My descriptions and visuals are something I’m proud of and what I’ve actually been complimented on now. But they used to be shit.
Reading your old writing can help you do the same in certain parts.
2. It’ll highlight weaknesses you may still have
Because you do still have them and if those spots were tough for you before, they’re probably still one of your weaker spots now. Reading through your old writing will show you the areas you weren’t that great in and you can compare that to your current writing to see if it’s still a problem.
Sometimes learning how to write better means you have to take a look at your old weaknesses and admit that not much has changed. Truthfully, I still think I have an issue with weaving in subplots seamlessly. I tend to focus on the big picture and forget that subplots serve a huge purpose in character development.
Luckily, highlighting those areas has helped me pay extra attention to them so I can actually improve in the future. And it can help you do the same!
3. It gives you a huge confidence boost
Let’s be real, this is the best part about reading your old writing. Yes, you usually cringe while reading it but that also means you’re aware of how much better you’ve gotten.
And that feels pretty damn good.
Not only do all writers need that confidence boost every now and then, it helps motive us to write more, too. And we all know writing a lot is the biggest part of learning how to write better.
So pull out your old writing and cringe away! It’ll be great for you.
4. It can give you ideas to use in your new writing
Yes, some of my old ideas were trash. They were so cheesy and overused that I’ll never use them again. However, there are little tidbits of my old writing that are super creative. In fact, I used a bit of some old ideas in my current WIP.
Don’t ever get rid of your old writing. You never know when you might use an element or a character in your new pieces. When you read your old writing, it can stir that creativity all over again, too.
5. You may become inspired all over again
I personally think your motivation to write comes from within but it’s really helpful when you get that burst of inspiration that makes you want to sit down and pump out thousands of words in one sitting. All writers know that feeling. Reading your old writing can actually help you feel inspired again by showing you just how much you really love writing.
Think about it. If you read your old writing, you’ll probably hate it but at least you still wrote it. You loved writing so much that you wrote a lot of garbage just to get better. That love for writing jumps off the page when you start reading your old stuff. It doesn’t matter how bad it was. It shows how much writing means to you and that can inspire you to get working on your WIP right away.
6. You’ll realize how far you’ve come
And if you’re constantly cringing at your old work, you’ve definitely come pretty far. You know you’re a better writer than you were back then just by your reaction. But if you really want to know how to write better, critique your own work.
This can be really hard to do because most of the time, we’re mega super critical of ourselves. We tear apart our own writing right now so critiquing our old work would basically be a nightmare.
But if you want to know how to write better, do it anyways.
You’ll understand why some stuff just doesn’t work and why you need to write in a different way. You can also highlight bad writing habits you had so you can see if you still have them. When you go back to your current writing, you’ll be able to weed out those errors a lot faster and in turn, you’ll become a better writer.
But overall, reading your old, cringe-worthy writing makes you see that yes, you’ve improved as a writer and you’ll continue to improve as a writer. And someday, the stuff you’re writing right now will be your old writing.
Obviously, learning how to write better isn’t a one-stop shop. You can’t just read your own writing and expect to get better. However, this is just a simple way you can not only see how much you’ve improved, but you can also pinpoint old weaknesses that are still active today.