I got a question for all you fellow writers out there. Do any of you look back on your old writings: old drafts or stories, and just cringe? You take a look at something and think: “Did I seriously write that? Oh, my god! It’s so bad!” I’ll tell you what: I cringe A LOT at my old writings.
For example: I located a writing notebook I had in sixth grade. SIXTH GRADE! I was 11 years old! The first few pages of the notebook are all little short stories that were told to write in class. We’d be given a picture or a topic or go clip out a newspaper headline and then write a story about it. I read through a couple of them and…Oof…Not only is my handwriting super messy, but I clearly couldn’t spell to save my life back then!
Turn a few more pages and you get a five page story assignment (which mine was broken up because there’s a whole reflection of a field trip right in the middle of it). I didn’t even want to read it. I remember writing it. It was based off a book we read called The Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. However, we had to change the curse in the book and make it our own. I made my mine The Animal Curse (surprise, surprise)! Since the assignment involved our classmates, our teacher was strict about making sure we got permission to use others in our story–there wasn’t anyone who didn’t give permission. Maybe you’ve got some old cringe-y writing assignments from elementary school you’d like to share?
That was the last of my assignments in the notebook. We didn’t actually do a lot of writing that year, so we didn’t even fill up a fourth of the notebook. However, I found another way to utilize the notebook: by writing my first “novel” in it. You see, when I reached seventh grade, I had a language arts teacher who was very impressed with a writing assignment I did. She read it to the entire class and even my classmates were impressed and wanted to know who wrote. Being the shy kid I was, I shook my head when my teacher looked at me in asking me permission to tell the rest of the class, and she didn’t reveal me as the author. No one found out who wrote that creepy onomatopoeia assignment.
Encouraged by that assignment and the upcoming Halloween, I started a ‘novel’ in my old writing notebook. It grew to 31 handwritten pages long! But…it’s not finished. I think I stopped writing it because it got to a scene were I got writer’s block and I never overcame it. It’s not the best writing, but the ideas are pretty interesting. I called it The Curse of Hallow House, and it’s about these three friends who are dared to enter an old mansion on their street (Hallow House), on Halloween night. Going inside, they end up discovering this enchanted, jeweled jack-o-lantern, but it’s incomplete. The pieces of it’s smile are scattered around the house and when the kids find them, they put the jack-o-lantern back together. In doing so, they unknowingly unleash a curse throughout the town. Everyday afterwards is Halloween again with a pumpkin moon shining overhead. What’s worse, is that everyone is turning into their costumes. So, if you dressed up like a zombie, congrats, you’ve become a zombie.
As terrible as the writing is, I think the story has some pretty good potential. I might attempt a rewrite someday and actually finish it. But, back to the point of this post: even though my writing was purely awful way back when, it’s a good reminder of how much I’ve grown. I mean, every professional was once an amateur, right? The same could be said for any other talent or passion you might have. If you want to learn to cook, you gotta keep trying recipes. If you want to sing, you gotta keep tuning your voice. If you want to be a writer, you gotta keep writing. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you’ll look back and think: “WOW, I can’t believe I wrote/made that! That’s so cringe-y!” But it’s progress and that should be enough to encourage you to keep going. Maybe ten years from now, you’ll look back at something you wrote or did today and think: “I’m so much better than I was back then!” At least, that’s what I’m hoping for. Keep dreaming, you guys, and feel free to comment below if you can relate!