The Harrowing Experience of Reading Your Own Writing (a Day, a Week, or a Month After the Deed)

Charles Dickens

Reading what you wrote a day, a week, a month ago can be a most painful experience, one that challenges your patience and sours your mood and makes you question your literary merits. ‘Bloody hell! Have I really written this drivel?’ 

It is with dread that I read articles, 50-word stories, and especially chapters in my novel (which I hope will make me not rich but immortal). While composing the aforementioned texts, the words seemed right, the phrases tight, the sentences bright. But when I reread them, my oh my!

It’s as if a mischievous imp had his wicked way with my words while I was away, changing adjectives, adding adverbs, ruining the grammar, moving commas, diluting the meaning of the sentences. So much so that I slap my forehead and make speedy preparations for jumping out the window.

What stops me is my fear of heights.

And my love for you, dear readers.

And also the belief that in my muddle of written words there can be observed, from time to time, poetical phrases, beautiful sentences, and thoughtful paragraphs that had somehow escaped the imp and reached you intact.

It’s because of these that I carry on writing and fighting with the imp.

Writing books requires endurance and hard work, there’s no doubt about it.

Talent is so hard to define. We may have it, or we may not.

But hard work… we are all capable of it.

We can rewrite and we can edit until our hands become numb.

And then we can type with our nose.

We must return to those misplaced words and discipline them.

Fire and sword and backspace!

***

 

Is it easy for you to read what you wrote a day, a week, a month ago?

***

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49 thoughts on “The Harrowing Experience of Reading Your Own Writing (a Day, a Week, or a Month After the Deed)

  1. I enjoyed this piece filled with humour and a strong sense of truth. To be honest, I don’t think it’s easy to go back to anything I’ve written before and not feel strangely embarrassed by how silly it seems to sound now, unlike before. However, I think your work is worthy to be reread by you, a hundred times repetitively; I enjoy your work!

  2. Mr. Mars, you ought to know that I, for one, love whatever “drivel” you serve us with. Every alphabet that you “type with your nose” is anything but nonsense.
    I l-o-v-e your writing style.

    And now about myself. Yes, I do read whatever I’ve written before. Sometimes it amazes me and sometimes I feel the need to hit ‘Edit’. But most of all, there is assurance that I’ve improved. And that matters to me.

    Continue writing the way you do and make that imp your best friend forever. He certainly knows how to make your readers love you back. 🙂

      1. No, Vincent, the design of this blog is not fancy and perhaps that is the reason why its nice – it puts your writing in the spotlight.
        So yes, I like the style of your blog as well.

  3. I have tried typing with my nose and it hasn’t worked. Sadly, it is not aristocratic enough.

    I try to stop myself from going back and reading my previous chapters because I then start editing and get mired in that quagmire. At this rate, I fear, I will never finish my book!

  4. Sometimes it is. (And io say this smiling)
    Sometimes it is a day after, and its horid a week later, and I wonder. Did I really write this? And the upseting thing would have to be that the week before, I’d been so proud of myself. It’s disheartening to tear it all up and start again.

    Sometimes it’s fun to see those mistakes and spend time correcting them to absolute literary perfection. For me that’s the beauty of writing. Finding something you wrote ages ago, and improving on it.

    PS – Your posts are always so thought provoking, I smile when I look in my e box and see a mail from you. Thank you for always putting a smile on my face.

    1. Here’s my favorite quote:

      “Perfection is achieved not when there Is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – A. de Saint-Exupery

      I’m delighted to hear that this lousy blog occasionally improves the mood of a faraway girl.

      And I blush too! 😛

  5. This is incredibly true. I find, at the time of writing, your mind can become incredibly bias to what you’ve written – overlooking numerous mistakes. However, it’s only when you return with a fresh mind that you can edit it more effectively.

      1. Sometimes, although usually it’s for word repetition and grammar mistakes. To me, a mere error like this can affect the entire mood of the post, removing it’s fluidity. Are you?

          1. Precisely. It doesn’t do well to always look negatively on your work. One should look to see what they’ve done right rather than what they’ve done wrong. Although, they should also be open to criticism so they can improve. That’s my philosophy anyway! 🙂

  6. Vincent as always you make my day, I don’t ever read what I write as I know it might make someone giggle or laugh.. so why stop a habit of a life and someone else to enjoy themselves… I wish I could write with my nose but if you read the message near your window you will se it says… use only in emergency!

  7. I recently dealt with this! I got out my old stuff that I wrote about two years ago. It’s CRAP!! Someone must have sneaked in during the night and changed all my words around. Surely I didn’t write such crap. But I did. 😦

  8. This was perfect for me today, thank you. I experienced the exposure and vulnerability of having my work published somewhere else other than my blog… and it is hard to look at it! Ha, I am hoping the more I publish, the more comfortable I become with it!

  9. I have the exact same experience with Music. I can lay down a track that is simply mindblowing…until I hear it again 2 weeks later, and want to shoot myself. So hard to actually finish a product or ever make it good enough for your toughest critic, yourself!

  10. I feel the same way when I look back at my old work. And even my new work.

    Ugh.

    I’m so glad you love us enough to keep yourself from jumping out the window, though. Were you to do that, I’d have to jump out my window, too.

    You really *are* too hard on yourself, though. You’re an excellent writer who loves the word “slunk.”

    1. I listen to BBC interviews with writers from time to time, and most of them say that they never reread their books. Apart from excerpts during public readings of course. And mind you, Johnny Depp doesn’t watch his movies.

      If you’d jump, Jessica, you would land intact, like you’ve done before. Hmm. If I’d have the assurance that you will land somewhere near me, maybe I’d jump deliberately.

      The tomcat slunk and the lady slunk and Oliver slunk too! My oh my!

  11. I agree. Re-reading my old blogs and journals make me cringe. However, instead of jumping out of my window, I throw my old writing out.

  12. Oh, I see poetry in your writing, indeed!
    I see it here: “…the words seemed right, the phrases tight, the sentences bright” and here: “Fire and sword and backspace!”, as well as in what you don’t say.

  13. But have you ever witnessed the horrors of year(s) old writing.It’s as if , words are capable of decay too . You put away a perfectly clever journal of prose , then retrieve it from where it’s been buried( by Mischievous siblings…during the rainy season) only to find that the barely there words weren’t very good together anyway. And suddenly, you’re grateful that it’s half washed away, because the writing was atrocious.

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