The project is done. The article has been proofread. The post has been published. You’re done, right? No need to go back and reread your own work. That is, unless you want to learn from your mistakes and see the progress you made.
No one gets it right the first time. Whether you’re blogging, writing a novel, or posting on social media, practice will make perfect. And that can make going back and to reread your own work painful.
In preparation for hosting Legal Linguist’s first Write Night at PatchWork Collective, I decided to pull out some of my old fiction and give it a read. “Why not?” I thought, “maybe I’ll pick the story back up and finish it.” So I dusted off a novel I started back in 2005 about a bunch of kids with special abilities at a school (stop me if you’ve heard this one).
It was bad.
Everything was rushed, the narrator wasn’t consistent, the plot was boring and the characters stereotyped. It left me feeling like:
I told my husband “13-years-ago me was a really bad writer!” But he had another perspective. His response was:
“It’s almost like 13 years of practice made you better at what you do.”A wise husband.
Imagine that. After 13 years of fiction writing (I’ll finish one of those novels eventually!) and 5 years of professional blogging I actually developed some talent for the written word. And the process of rereading my own work gave me insight into what I had learned, and where I still had room to grow.
Rereading Your Old Work Helps Measure Progress
Writing is hard work. It can be lonely, frustrating, and sometimes painful. And because of the artist’s dilemma, we often don’t think what we’ve done is any good. Okay, artists have a variety of dilemmas — from weighing their own creativity against public demand, to how to store all their materials. But the artist’s dilemma I’m talking about comes from the fact that as creative types we learn by doing.
That means by the time we are done writing that novel or painting that canvas we are better at what we do than we were when we started. Between the learning process and the fact that often our ideas are loftier than our abilities, we are never happy with what we have created. We see every flaw and feel a constant need to compare ourselves to the champions of our field or genre.
But what if, instead, we compared ourselves to ourselves?
This is where rereading your own work comes in. If you go back to that 13 year old manuscript, or year one of your blog, I’ll bet you find that your present work is much better. You have improved. You are, in fact, better at what you do than you were when you started. That realization can help you measure your progress, and it might just give you the emotional pick-me-up you need to push aside your writer’s block and finish your work.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She provides blogging and writing services to law firms and small businesses. If you need help taking your blog writing to the next level, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.