Sometimes it's hard to see the grand scheme of things. When you work in an office, for example, you hammer tirelessly away at paperwork that seems to come in from a void and return to that very same void. Oftentimes, I feel as though the work that I do is simply an excuse to move my hands all day long without feeling like I'm actually acomplishing anything.
I'm sure everyone has felt that way at some point in their lives. Sometimes you get lost, and you just hammer and hammer without feeling like anything in your life has meaning. Sometimes, admitedly, my writing feels that way. Some days (often when I'm editing, as I loathe it down to my very soul) I will stop, throw my hands up in the air and exclaim, "What the hell am I doing?" I appear to have accumulated a pile of words without actually having acomplished anything.
I feel like those hoarders from that TV show. Except I'm collecting words.
I'm sure throughout any writer's career, they get frustrated. They're not sure what they're doing, they lose hope.
Writers out there: Sound familiar?
Well, as usual, Katie comes riding in on a white horse of optimism.
Everything you write has merit.
And the little writer within you exclaims: No way. Not that horrible poem I wrote in tenth grade about how black my soul was because I was in this horrible goth phase that I wish I could blot from my memory.
No, seriously, everything you write has merit.
The inner writer: NO! Not that horrible, horrible short story I wrote when I was mad at my ex-boyfriend and it was pure fantasy and will never see the light of day again.
Don't make me say it again.
Pull out those badly written poems, short stories, muses, novels, novellas, essays or whatever. I want you to grit your teeth and look them over. Really look.
I'll give you a moment.
Did you grit your teeth and bear it? Did you want to beat your head against the table? Were you flooded with nostalgia?
Most importantly: Did you find something you liked about it?
Of course there are the old, underdeveloped characters or the sloppy dialogue that has no place in the market but every place in our hearts. But in every piece of writing you've done, there is merit to it. Writing is not something we are born with. It is not something most are just inherantly good at. Those who are good, whose writing takes your breath away, worked at it for years and years and years. They practiced.
And you may not like to think of it that way, but those old stories and poems are practice. You figured out what worked and what didn't. And there is something in there that is worth it. It may be a line, it may have been a plot twist, it may have been an idea you had or it may have been a character, but there is something in everything we write that proves that writing is worth our time.
And when you shove those old stories back into the box and shove them under the bed, never to see the light of day again, you've got to remember that those stories taught you about your writing. Those bad stories made you into the writer that twists your nose at your old work and say, "What was I thinking?"
Every writer has "What were you thinking?" stories. That's how we learn and that's how we perfect our craft.