Why You Should Never Throw Away Your Old Writing

By: Editing Intern Zoe Andrews

Don’t worry, fellow writers. I understand. We all do. Some passages that spill onto the page feel too terrible to share.

Usually, this feeling arises most prominently when reviewing older writing, perhaps from when you were a wee lad or lass. At a ripe young age, you were so full of joy and excitement that you wrote about everything and anything that caught your attention. What the cat down the road could have been doing all day. Why the universe is out to get you. Some great adventure you dreamed about one night but awakened from too soon, so instead of imagining a conclusion to the story,  you shoved it into the dark recesses of computer storage. 

Now that you have become a more sophisticated writer with a better grasp on grammar and “good writing,” tendrils of your past seem even more horrendous. Oh, for the days when the difference between “their” from “there” didn’t interrupt writing joy!

Perhaps you look back at your old works with intentions to clean them up, but the task feels so overwhelming that you cringe and put them away. I am guilty of this on more than one occasion.

Writers, please take another gander at those poor lost children. Look beyond their flaws for hidden gems, the ideas that sparked your initial enthusiasm. While delving into my past works, I stumbled upon some great ideas and well-written lines. Despite grammatical flaws or plot holes, I found potential. 

Before we were bogged down by what to do and what not to do, freedom and enthusiasm overrode rules and regulations. Something good still lingers from that. When I look back on middle grade writing, I almost feel jealous. Why can’t I have such fun and wondrous ideas now? 

Well, I can. If I’m at a loss for new ideas, I cheat. I take from old works and use them in new projects where my grammar is better, and my knowledge of writing has grown.

Don’t throw away the ideas that were formed through youthful inspiration. Save all your writing. When you are desperately searching for a new idea or something fun to write about, you may find it in your past pages. Even if you don’t find exactly what you need, new ideas might arise. At the very least, you’ll enjoy the nostalgia and find new energy for your current project.


A previous version of this blogpost was published on Dec. 23, 2016

Why You Should Never Throw Away Your Old Writing