I began writing poetry when I was 12 years old. I faithfully wrote, then typed, saved, and transferred every scrap of poetry, prose, and story that came was born from my mind. Yesterday, in hopes of finding something worth professional publication, I decided to go through every bit of my writing from the last decade and I made an amusing, disheartening, and educational discovery
I was a terrible writer as a teenager.
I had saved nearly 200 pieces of writing since 2006, most of it poetry. I was so proud of my collection and guarded it with intense ferocity. Like all writers, I felt that this compilation of ramblings were pieces of my soul. To be fair, they were. Those poems and stories were accurate reflections of my heart and mind at the time. The problem is, 16 year-olds are embarrassingly dramatic and ridiculous.
Almost everything I wrote was cringe and cliche.
With a large cup of coffee and a biscotti in hand, I waifed through poem after poem of naive, Hollywood rom-com perceptions about love, breakups, and teen romance. Riddled with cliche phrases about “his eyes as dark as his soul” and “my shattered heart” and other angst-fueled, cringe-inducing turns of phrase- I found only a few dozen pieces worth saving and revising. Only two of them, written in my adulthood, about love. So far, I have gone through roughly 1/2 of my writing. Tonight, with a bottle of wine instead of coffee, I will make my way through the last half- including incomplete novels.
So, why am I doing this?
In a big way, this little project is both therapeutic and educational. For one thing, I am getting a lot of exercise in rolling my eyes, laughing at my own folly, and walking away from my computer after a particularly terrible poem. For another, I am getting a hard lesson in pride, style, and development in the evolution of my writing. As a teenager, I fancied myself talented. As an adult, I am seeing just how conceited that belief was. I am getting a honest look at how far I have come in my skill-set, something I greatly encourage everyone to do every few years. Most importantly though, there is a deeply-influential therapeutic aspect to this all. I am eliminating negative thoughts, patterns, and beliefs from my drive both literally and figuratively. A lot of my writing reflected dangerous perceptions about love, relationships, abuse, self-image, and life that I was subconsciously holding onto. In addition to being terrible writing in general (again, full of cringe and cliche) the writing itself came from a dark and dangerous place I could easily fall into again by holding onto those pet-demons. By deleting those influences, it was like erasing them from my soul as well.
Do I still think I’m a bad writer?
No, not really. As I mentioned earlier, there were several pieces worth saving, a few worth re-working, and some I kept just because they were truly sentimentally valuable. I don’t regret writing even my most painfully, awful poem, even if I decided to give it the ax. Those horrible pieces of cringe and cliche may have been the product of angsty teen rebellion, but they were also relics of who I was at the time.