Writers – Read Your Old Stuff

“But, I’m a fiction writer. I can’t write essays!”

Just about any writer who has spent time mentoring has heard something like that, regardless of the writing style involved. I’ve personally protested against the concept of ever writing (good) poetry, because I sincerely question my ability to write anything beyond some rhymed verse for a toast.

But, deep in my own archives there are a few items that contain some lines that certainly are fairly lyrical, and probably could be turned into passable poetry if extracted and toyed with a bit. The same applies to some old essays of mine that could easily be turned into short fiction, if I chose to switch out real names for fictional ones, and remove some factual information that would interrupt the flow of the narrative.

It’s not new advice to suggest that writers read their own writing months or years after it was originally composed, but too often, the point of that suggestion is just about seeing concrete proof of growth as a writer. While that remains solid advice, it’s also important to suggest a fresh reading of old work when a writer is saying that she is incapable of creating work in a particular style or genre.

The fact is that while each type of writing has its own characteristics, cross-overs between them are numerous. Growing as a writer isn’t just about honing one’s skills in one particular area. It is also about exploring the boundaries, and crossing them.

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