Really, I wrote THAT?

Dear Readers,
I’m back, and I apologize for the long absence. Something unexpected happened– I had a baby! I found out I was pregnant 19 days after finishing NaNoWriMo, and it turned out to be a rather difficult pregnancy. I was sick for about 7 out of 10 months and didn’t feel much like writing. We also moved in the middle of all that, so it’s been a wild and crazy ride. Now our baby boy is here, and I love my new job description of stay-at-home wife and mother. This work has definitely taken a first priority to me, and I can’t imagine anything more rewarding. But with all that said, now that I feel healthy again, even though our life doesn’t currently have a very normal “routine”, I have decided that I want to get back into writing life… and the start of a new year seems a good time to begin.

So tonight I pulled out a box of my old stories and essays, and began to read over them to see if they were any good. My hope is to clean them up and submit them somewhere, if they are worth cleaning up. What I have found, once again, is just how true it is that you change and mature, and it definitely effects my writing in various ways. As could be expected, I had a few moments of “Wow, I really wrote that?” and “I really thought this was good?” But not all my reactions were ones that I expected.

The first essay I picked up I have also set aside. I wrote it when I was a rampant baseball fan and my love of the sport leaps off the pages. While I still love baseball and follow it pretty avidly, I am not into it nearly as much as I was, and I just don’t have the passion or desire anymore to make something of that essay.

The second paper I picked up was a story. I hadn’t read this story in over a year, so I was able to look at it with pretty fresh eyes. What jumped out to me was that, while it had a great beginning which pulled me in right away, it started to get boring on page two and lost me completely by page three. I couldn’t even read further than that because it was so bad. All description and summary, and no scenes. Then when I started doing scenes again they felt completely random and thrown in, and included characters the reader really didn’t know or have any emotional ties to. Then on top of all that, I put down one of the character’s very emotional story– their whole life story– right in the middle after all this. The thought in my head was, “why would I, as a reader, want to read this life story, when I don’t even care about the character yet?”
The interesting thing about this story is, I still like it. It’s rough, however, I feel it is redeemable. This story came from my heart in a very real way. The idea for it arose from the place that I grew up, the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. The various scenes came to my imagination as I wandered in the woods on the long, lonely walks I used to take. And the main female character, though not identical, is very similar to me in looks and personality. However, I did not take the beauty and strength of those scenes and put them into my story. I don’t know why. If I do that, I think I will have a very good story, and I have strong hopes regarding the final outcome. I think the idea is still good and I like it, just the execution left much to be desired. I am excited to try my hand at it again.

The third paper I picked up was another essay. This one I felt was pretty good. Good description, dialogue, and I still care deeply about the subject matter (my brother’s wedding.) The only flaws I found with it were mechanical– run-on paragraphs, repeated words, grammatical errors. I think it is a good essay with a lot of potential– but I am not going to submit it anywhere, because the subject matter is too personal. Personal on a different level from the story I mentioned above. That story is from my heart, and contains many similarities to myself and the environment where I grew up. But it is not identical, and that is only me. This essay involves a lot of people, and it is not fictionalized in the least. It contains immediate and extended family, and my thoughts and judgments contained in the essay are pretty raw. I think this one too, I need to set aside.

The fourth paper I read was very short, just a quick, witty description of a fish-fry I attended the summer I spent in South Dakota. It reads pretty easily, has some very nice descriptions, and shows the joyous abandon of a 20-year-old college student. What struck me about this piece was simply that it had been written. I realized, much to my surprise, I never would write such a thing today, much less show it to anyone. Why? Because it is a witty, raw and honest description of the things I saw, the people I spoke with, and the feelings and emotions I felt. It is very real, and the reading of it made me feel very vulnerable. I do not hold back what I as thinking and feeling that day, and while it contains nothing bad, I would not want to share myself so freely today. If I share myself freely, it is through the medium, as discussed above, of a fictionalized world and I am portrayed through the eyes of a character. I no longer have that joyous abandon. I am far more cautious now. While in some ways perhaps that is good, to be honest, it makes me a little sad.

So far, this is the material I have reviewed and my initial feelings regarding it. Have any of you ever gone through a similar experience (taking a prolonged absence from writing, and then coming back to it and reading some of your old stuff?) What were your feelings/impressions?

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About Laura Holland

A Jesus-follower, wife, mother and writer living in Albuquerque, NM.
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