It was a dim afternoon on the solstice when I realized the importance of reflecting on my past writing experiences. Admittedly, I was a little short on ideas as I was generating some pitches. So I dug out my old idea notebooks from a bin in the top of my closet to remind myself of ideas that I’d had earlier in the year. What I found was an archive from the last few years, and I’m so glad I rediscovered these notes. Now that 2017 is around the corner, it’s the best time to celebrate these accomplishments and set new goals.
What I learned is that I’ve started more novels than I can count, wrote stories I completely forgot about, and had pitch ideas that were years old. Not everything written in the past is gold, but it doesn’t hurt to go back and look at these ideas. We may think of this as holding us back, but it’s helpful if you’re at a point in your writing life that you’re questioning your progress. There may even be some questions you should ask yourself about your writing as you head into a fresh writing year.
The writing life requires you to have persistence, seek out new ideas, and write every day if you possibly can. Yet we don’t always allow ourselves to look back when we’ve got deadlines piling up. The importance of looking back can’t be underestimated.
It helps you generate new ideas.
You may be short on ideas today. If your writing life is even somewhat similar to mine, chances are, you probably didn’t have the same opportunities last year. This means you have a better grip on pitching and more people to listen to your ideas. If this is you, dig out those old notebooks for the great ideas you came up with but never came through on. Update the concepts and pitch. You never know– it may just help you get your next great idea.
It makes you realize where you started and where you’re going.
I consider 2013 to be the year when I started taking this whole writing thing seriously. Looking back, I didn’t know much about finishing full-length projects, pitching, author platforms, or the writer’s life. I have been a lifelong writer, but I hadn’t really shown people what I was doing. And author branding was a foreign concept. The last three years have illuminated so many new paths for me.
I may not be a bestselling author, but I have seen my work in print. I’ve gotten my work critiqued by accomplished writers and editors and my pitches have actually gotten accepted. I followed several of my ideas from start to finish. These experiences were crucial, and they only happened because I put myself out there. If you’re just starting out, that’s your next step.
It shows you that not all your old ideas were bad.
After you realize how much you’ve improved, it’s easy to be really critical of ourselves (i.e., I should have known better syndrome). This really isn’t productive. Looking back on my old notebooks, I realized that not all my ideas were bad. They just needed a little professional polish.
It encourages you to keep going because your progress is only beginning.
If you’ve gotten this far in one year (or three), imagine the progress you’ll make in 2017. Although we may have rough days, the writing life can be pretty exciting because practice really does make us better. If we work towards our goals, we increase the probability that they’ll actually come true. That’s amazing, and we don’t spend enough time thinking about the importance of this.
It reminds you of your writing why.
In your writing life, chances are you’ll struggle sometimes with the why of writing. Why do we write? Why is my story important? How can writing help ourselves and others? Looking back on old notes and aspirations can remind us of the original reason that we started these journies in the first place. When you’ve been going at this for awhile, it may be easy to forget the reasons we do things. But there’s always a path that leads home. Find that path!
It gives you a basis to start thinking about resolutions.
Not everyone does New Year’s Eve resolutions. Regardless, the change of the clock into a new year somehow indicates significance to all of us. January 1 may not be very different from December 31, but a shift in numbers can be a shift in our terminology. Knowing where we’ve been before can help us make paths into a new future.
It gives you an opportunity to create a writing routine that actually works.
Maybe you’re writing year wasn’t so stellar. But maybe it wasn’t for the reasons that you think. If you’re writing routine needs tweaking, looking back on all those ideas can remind you of the importance of a good routine. Start here for some tips on creating a writing routine that will make you feel more free.
We all need a little reminder every now and then.
The ideas that you wrote down in your most distracted state of mind may just be the next best thing for you to tackle. Although I’m a believer in moving forward with new ideas, sometimes the little reminder that we had a random, interesting idea last year can be all it takes to revitalize our current works in progress.