The Hell Butterfly

On Looking Back Over my Harddrive

I was just scanning my harddrive at my old documents and it makes me laugh every time. Seeing photos from several years ago, ones that I’d shoved into a folder and buried in the deep recesses of the drive to never be dragged out again. I never move them, even if I’m not as embarrassed or enraged by any of my findings as I was at the time, I must have put them there for a reason and I like to keep them there.

I just went through my creative writing folder. It was labelled Short Stories and I’ve written quite a few over the years. Many I don’t remember until I see the title, and even then I may only remember the story properly once I’ve opened the document. Some I’ll read the title of, recall, and remember why I never read it but never delete it. Some remind me of difficult times, or of times where I was in such a good mood the words show it, and even if I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be as truly happy as back then, the memory is nice for a few minutes.

I found two short stories for my Literature class from year 10. I would have been fifteen or so at the time of writing them, and it was somewhat shocking, as it always is when I read them, how much my writing has changed. It is an unfortunate truth that it has not entirely changed for the better. I really like some of my old work. I was too young and too inexperienced to have picked up many bad writing habits. The older writing, whilst still rather obviously the writing of a teenager, has a certain … charm about it, perhaps because this was me just discovering my potential as a writer. For some context, it was in this same year I began my novel.

I am probably going to share some of my older writing in the next few posts. I will share them exactly as they are on the document, as I wrote them at the time. I have gained five years of writing experience since then, but that experience will do no good to the old stuff. There was a certain way that I wrote, such clarity perhaps. I didn’t have any other experience to draw on, didn’t know what mistakes I could make. I guess you could say I was somewhat fearless in my writing pursuits because I didn’t know what could go wrong. And I think I could learn from myself. Looking back on my older work, seeing the point where things started to go wrong, picking up on the things that I did right before that point.

For any writers out there reading this, I suggest maybe you do the same. Look back over old writing, see what the earliest pieces are, maybe if you have it somewhere look up the very first piece you wrote and think. What was going through your mind, what processes did you use? Did it work? Was it better than now? Perhaps it is just as good, but good in a different way. For example my writing style is now more mature, but I’ve also fallen into bad habits. I describe my characters in too much detail. Despite my best efforts I do use adverbs when I don’t need them. My characters are never very different from each other between stories, I find myself coming back to the same types of character. Looking over my short stories and my novella ideas, and comparing them all to each other and to my novel I have found repeats. For example there is always a stereotype that I defend, there is always a gay character, always a set of twins, and always a male character who is pretty much my ideal. But looking at my old work, it is free from these mistakes, these commonalities. It was the working of a young mind just then coming into the world of writing. I wanted to explore all the possibilities, wasn’t afraid of the things I didn’t know could go wrong and so didn’t make those mistakes.

I need to learn from this – just because I know what can go wrong doesn’t mean I should be afraid of it. I shouldn’t be making the mistakes just because I now know that I can make them. If anything I should be able to recognise when I’m doing it and stop.

I love looking over my harddrive. You never know what you might find.

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