I’ve gotten better at writing since college.
I found my old college flash-drive and took a peek at my old work. At first, I cringed at my feeble attempts at poetry and prose. I ground my teeth while catching typos in my academic essays, and seriously considered whether I deserved my English degree. “They gave me an ‘A’ for this?” I thought to myself numerous times as I scanned over long-forgotten documents. I couldn’t believe I was given a pass and even some praise for this “work”. But after I took some time to step back and consider my work objectively, I saw things in a different light.
My early work showed potential.
The flash-drive contained my writing from 2013-2017. It’s been less than a decade, but I feel like I wrote those pieces a lifetime ago. I clearly remember working on some of those pieces, but others felt like they were written by someone else. Reading over them, then opening cloud storage documents from the last 2 years of college (I took 6 years because I changed majors), I could trace my progress as a writer. The earlier pieces were rough, unpolished, and poorly edited, but they solid in terms of concept and structure. With each passing year, I could see that my blueprints and scaffolding were solid, but I still lacked the skill to fully execute the design. What I needed was more time and passion to learn to build.
What I lack in practice, I make up for with passion.
Back in college, I wrote every day: essays, reading responses, prompt pieces for creating writing classes, and annotated bibliographies for research classes. I wrote so much, that I got carpal-tunnel my senior year of school (this wasn’t helped by my full-time, manual labor job). I had plenty of practice when it came to writing, but I didn’t have the final ingredient of passion during that time. I was writing because I had to write, not because I wanted to. I was being told what to write, when to write, how long it should be, and what it should look like. I was stressed from work, finances, lack of sleep, and project deadlines. I didn’t have the time or energy to care about what I wrote, and it showed. But, things have been different since graduation.
I write because I want to.
In many ways, writing still feels like a need that’s intrinsic to my nature. But, external forces have been removed. Writing is no longer a forced activity rubrics and due dates, but a chosen form of expression. When I look at my more recent pieces, the difference really shows. Yes, the quantity of my writing has decreased, but the quality has greatly improved. Now, I take time to nutrure each piece with a loving hand. It’s become a labor of love instead of a chore.
I still have a lot to improve.
I am still prone to using patterns and cliches when I write. I am easily distractable, and abandoned half-finished work, and I still hate editing. But, the words flow more smoothly from my head onto the page. My poetry is more varied in topic and more cultivated in delivery. My short stories are more original in terms of plot, and flushed out in terms of story-telling. My blog posts are more thoughtful and conversational.
It’s hard to assess the quality of writing.
Sure, there are plenty of literary techniques that a writer can use and a reader can identify. You can talk about how “the author’s use of 1st person narration creates a feeling of intimacy with the reader” or how “the use alliteration in this poem creates sound patterns that makes a memorable impression.” The ability to identify and employee estabilished techniques is an important part of any art. However, when it comes to critiquing a piece, personal preferences in readers will always be a factor. At the end of the day, opinions about quality are often based on ineffable feelings.
But I feel like I’ve improved as a writer, and isn’t it my opinion that matters most?