A couple of weeks ago, I went to see a special screening of Local Hero. It’s an excellent film, and if you have the opportunity, you should see it.
The director Bill Forsyth was brought in at the end to hold a question-and-answer session with the audience. He mentioned at the beginning that he hadn’t seen the film in years, and an audience member asked why this was. He answered that he wasn’t ashamed of his work, simply that he wasn’t interested in looking back, and questioned whether – for example – a writer would be interested in rereading their old stories.
Contrary to the director’s opinion, my answer is a definite yes. I openly admit that being a writer wasn’t a childhood dream, and I therefore don’t have notepad upon notepad of embarrassing teenage musings. Rather, I wrote my first fiction in late 2010, just before I turned 27, and looking back enables me to keep a weather eye on how I’ve improved.
Even if I come across an old piece that I find jarring, I know I only need to rewrite it, or in extreme cases, deconstruct it, to bring it up to my current standards.
A prime example of such a jarring piece is one of the first poems I wrote, called The Cooler, a short verse about a character’s self-imprisonment. Looking at it now, it needs to be longer to fully convey the situation, as it’s currently unclear, and the clumsy language needs to be trimmed, eg, “It stays cold all night like a fridge.” Now I’ve looked back at it, I can think about these issues and improve the work.
In my next entry, I intend to cover the issue of rewriting in a more in-depth fashion.
I mentioned I’ve been writing fiction for less than four years, but I was a blogger long before that, discussing the issues on my mind at that moment, much as I do here. That writing is a little embarrassing, but it’s only by looking back that I can see how much I’ve moved on. Here’s a typical entry from almost exactly ten years ago.
There are many writers who started later in life, and I found out recently that John Grisham is one of them. He didn’t write his first novel until he was in his 30s, and didn’t give up his work as a lawyer until his second was published.