Out of total curiosity this morning, I decided to re-visit one of my earliest novels (written when I was 22 years old - I'm pushing 40 now...).
I knew that in almost-20 years, I had probably improved on things like technique, plot, characterization, dialogue. When I opened it up and started to read, I smiled. And then, I chuckled. SO many things I now know better about were in that manuscript - awful things like telling-instead-of-showing, overuse of the passive voice, and wayyyy too many adverbs. The writing, for the most part, is cheesy. It's overdone. It's melodramatic. But, I remember the plot/characters well, and still think the story has merit. I'm dying to go back and edit the heck out of it, see if I can turn it into something worthwhile.
The point is - we aren't the same writers we used to be. Or, at least we shouldn't be the same writers. Years have a way of not only changing our perspective on things (because of the experiences we've been through - divorce, death of a loved one, health issues, etc) -- but they also have a way of teaching us more about the craft of writing. After attending writers' conferences, being part of creative writing classes, reading "how-to" books, studying other authors/novels, and finally, teaching my own creative writing classes, I really think I've come a long way. It sounds like bragging (and maybe it is, just a little, only in the sense that I'm proud of myself for growing as a writer) - but it's more the realization that time has helped me improve. As it should. I easily see faults in my old writing that I - hopefully - have since conquered (or, at least, nearly so).
Of course, as I tell my students, there's no perfect writer. I will forever be a student of the written word. I will never, ever reach the point where I sit back and gloat, and think I've learned all there is to learn. Ha! No way. But - there is a certain beauty in looking back at our "former selves," as writers, and seeing the progress we've made.
So, my challenge to you readers today: Be brave. Dig deep, way back, and find something you wrote 10, 20, even 30 years ago! And use it to pat yourself on the back a little, to see how far you've come!