I have a binder full of poetry and short stories that I wrote from about age 12 to 18 stashed away for safekeeping. While there isn’t anything in it I’d dare be proud of today, each is evidence of my growth as a writer. For instance:
Why Me? 1999 (I was around 12)
As I look into the cup
the cup in front of me
I see my life
dark and unfree
it hurts to cry
through the tears I can barely see
all I think about,
I believe it’s the first poem I ever wrote and even though I can recite every word…ugh, I cringe! Luckily, I had a habit as a teenager to date my work with at least the year, so the dates give me a timeline of my writing. I can see change in my ability from the first poems I ever wrote to the last entry when I was 18.
Depression Reigns (2005)
Pain took advantage of the circumstances
Sorrow is once again my home
If only I had the courage to bleed again
I might feel better with depression on the throne.
To each good thought
he screams off with their head
To each wonderful memory
the dungeon is where they make their bed
He severed the lines that allow me to smile
the laugh I once had has been captured for a while
He drains my energy
But retains my tears for their daily trip down
Some may call him a tyrant
Some may find him vile
I call him my grand king
After all, I cannot escape him
So I gave him the crown.
Whoa at the teenage angst! Without a doubt I know that I could take any one piece from my binder and create a totally different, vastly improved version of my old ideas… but I won’t. I really do want those poems and short stories to stand in time. They may not make me proud of my writing ability back then, but they serve as static reminders of my love of creativity and the written word. More importantly, they are evidence of my growth as a writer.
Part of the importance of a writer’s journal is that it keeps record of your ideas and work. Not only can you revisit ideas once discarded, you can see how you grow as you become a more involved and talented writer. Often times I laugh at the silly or typical words and images I used in past writing, but I can also see how I used figurative language and other literary devices without even being aware of their purpose.
The whole point of this post is to urge you to keep everything you write, especially that which doesn’t make you the proudest. There may come a day when you can revisit that piece and turn it into the masterpiece you envisioned when you first put it to paper. You need to see evidence of your growth. It will be a great tool those days (or weeks or months) that you need a confidence boost.