This week I pulled out something I wrote and published a decade ago. I wanted to repurpose it into a shorter, updated piece.
My old work shocked me. It was ponderous.
I used big words that no one ever wields. I constructed long sentences – the kind where you forget the beginning by the time you get to the end. I employed a passive language. It was bad, at least by my standards and skills circa 2013.
To my dismay, my words didn’t serve my reader but strained to elevate myself. I hadn’t written to help others but to call attention to my writing. The subtext of my ungainly message was to parade my vocabulary, intellectual ponderings, and academic style – not to educate, entertain, or enlighten.
It was painful to read.
I could have felt the sting of embarrassment over my novice ways and immature style. I did not. First, I couldn’t change what I wrote. The printed page doesn’t allow edits or do-overs. As they quip in school, it was part of my permanent record. Second, even though it makes me shudder now, some people did like what I wrote then. They enjoyed my style; they appreciated my insights; they found value in my prose.
Instead of dismay, I celebrate what I read from my former self. My decade-old words prove, without doubt, that my writing has improved. I’ve grown as a wordsmith. My style is coalescing into something worth reading, words that are honest and real. I’m comfortable with where I am now and glad for the progress of my journey.
The only way I might have mourned my past writing would be if I hadn’t improved at all if I was no better today than I was back then.
In another ten years, I hope to read this piece and shudder again, realizing it was not nearly as good as my writing will be circa 2023.
May it be so.
May we always strive to improve our writing.
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Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.