Old Work: Embrace or Erase?

Love triangles. Strikingly beautiful characters. Drama-fuelled scenes. Explosive arguments. Time travel. Magic. Forbidden relationships. My old stories, the ones I wrote when I was a young teenager, were brimming with so many elements that my present-day fingers would be hesitant to type.

Back then, my imagination knew no limits. With unstifled creativity—knowing that nobody except me would read these stories—I could write thousands of words a day, never suffering from writer’s block or getting bored of the process. It was my own little world, full of characters who relied on me to bring them to life.

I miss those days.

Writing was a big part of my life back then. It’s still a big part of my life now, but in a totally different way. Whilst it’s a personal choice to share my stories with thousands of people, I can’t help but feel that I’d never be able to regain that sense of creative freedom that I enjoyed ten years ago. My mindset has changed, I view the world differently, and I strive to make every story as realistic as possible in a way that still allows readers to escape.

Knowing that a large number of people will read—and inevitably judge—your writing obviously has an impact, too. When I first started posting stories online, I didn’t worry about that; I wasn’t expecting to gain many readers and was perfectly happy with the few that I had. For me, writing was such a personal activity, and one that I was passionate about, so the number of readers never bothered me. I didn’t care for popularity or fame. I just wanted to write and meet other people who shared my hobby. I wrote one story from scratch when I first started posting, and then simply uploaded my older stories to grow my profile.

As my readership grew, I found myself becoming critical of those older stories. Being more mature, and wiser, affected my own view of my previous writing, too, and that was exacerbated by critical comments that I started to receive. They ranged from constructive criticism to simply rude, but every comment highlighted a certain part of the story that I’d forgotten existed.

Over time, I began to delete those stories from my profile. Not only did they make me cringe, but I felt like they didn’t properly reflect my current writing. Every time someone read a new story of mine and said, “I’m going to check out your other work now!”, I was filled with dread at which story they’d choose. Would they be disappointed at the lower quality? Would it make them view me differently as a writer? I wanted to be proud of my writing, and there were certain stories that I really wasn’t proud of anymore.

One thought had me conflicted about deleting those stories, though. One thought always came to mind whenever I read back over those cringe-worthy scenes. I have developed so much as a writer. I’ve come a long way, and the varying quality of my writing proves that. That’s something to be proud of, even if I’m not necessarily proud of those stories.

Today, only one old story remains on my profile. I didn’t have the heart to delete it. Writing is such a big part of my life—it always has been—and I’m not quite ready to disregard that yet.

How do you feel when you read back over your older work?

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Tessa Lovatt is a British author who’s been sharing her stories online since 2011. Her world has revolved around books for as long as she can remember, and that love of words extended into university, where she studied languages. 55,000 readers follow Tessa on Wattpad, the social storytelling platform, and her books have accumulated over 25 million reads.

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