Reading your older works (and getting over the embarrassment)

Nobody beats themselves up quite like a perfectionist. From newcomers to the craft, to well-known authors making major cash in their sleep: everyone feels a sudden jolt of shame when they remember works from years ago. Whether it’s the first self-published eBook you put together for Amazon or a terrible fanfiction that is still online from your high school years: you might find yourself waking up at 4 in the morning with one thought in your head: better delete that!

This sense of embarrassment, shame, or even guilt might cast a sense of panic over your current work, swiping away that dream-like vision of success as you stare up at the ceiling and try to get back to sleep. They could be the reason that doubt continues to tug on your sleeve at every corner, slowing down your progress or even causing a complete halt in your productivity.

But now, it is time to let go of that pesky self-doubt that sits on your shoulder and crawls inside your dreaming mind. Here are some steps to follow next time that slimy creature starts whispering in your ear.

Know that you’re constantly learning

In most cases, not many others will notice what is so glaringly obvious to you. Nobody is going to take to Twitter, or the town’s local soap box, and declare that you’re a fraud, just because you introduced a minor character in chapter three and forgot to mention them again throughout the whole novel.

Don’t worry about what others could be thinking or feeling about your previous indiscretions. If you’re learning and attempting to better your work, you’re doing well. And often, just continuing to write as much as you can is a way of improving your content. People pick up pointers on how to write from all over the place, and these tiny pieces of information will collect in your mind and pour out onto the screen all by themselves.

Take note of your previous mistakes

Make sure you’re aware of what you could’ve improved, but don’t bully yourself over them. If you notice a mistake when reading through, write down what you didn’t like about it, learn from it, and move on. It might just be a good exercise in furthering your knowledge in scene progression, character emotions, story arcs or anything of the sort.

Realise what’s really on your mind

It’s not the fact that your older works are mortifyingly awful and deserve to be deleted from all existence. In fact, your first few pieces may be a lot better than what you give yourself credit for! And even if it isn’t exactly the type of book that English Literature professors will be studying in thirty years time, it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to fail in every single thing that you write now and in the future. It is really what you’re working on now that matters — which is what may be bothering you beneath the surface.

Find humour in what embarrassed you

Have you ever read an old diary and thought “Oh dear, I must have been insufferable — I can’t believe how cringey I was back then”? Well, reading your old writing is a bit like that — but this time, you can shift the blame onto your beloved characters instead. Be lighthearted and laugh at your insecurities!

Ask for feedback, if you want it

If it really bothers you, ask a trusted friend, family member or beta to read your work, and have them offer tips on what could have been better. You can keep their feedback in mind for everything you write from then onward — and perhaps they’ll even reassure you that it wasn’t the terrible, catastrophic drivel you believe it to be.

Keep on writing

This is vital: keep writing and focus on the present. If you really want to go back to novel number one and make a revised copy, then do so — but what really matters is the content you make for the future. Sometimes you just have to let go of the past, and carry on. Who knows? The thing that you’re working on right now could be in the New York Times Best Sellers list!

It’s all about trusting yourself to do the best you can now, and growth. Mistakes are how you learn, and that is the key to growth. Whilst it may knock your confidence for the time being, make sure to congratulate yourself on your successes too!

This post was originally published on Nocturne des Anges.

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    Nostalgic creature, author of historical fiction, and blogger for Nocturne des Anges.

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    Nostalgic creature, author of historical fiction, and blogger for Nocturne des Anges.

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