Do you have a big, fat file of unpublished or unfinished work?
I have tons of articles I’ve started, but then lost interest in, little tidbits I jotted down but then moved on to another subject, and a mile-long list of ideas I may or may not pursue.
While there are drafts I delete altogether, a lot of it sits in my Evernote, patiently waiting for me to return to it.
Writing is part of how we spend our time — and time is the one thing we cannot create or get back. I got to thinking, how can my past work serve me now?
Below are some suggestions and ideas.
1. It helped us hone and perfect our craft.
Every single word we write is helping us improve.
Even work we consider awful or a total nightmare was a piece of our continuously evolving voice and perspective.
As we grow, so does our writing.
Just the other day, I updated my copywriting examples. I was floored at how much I had grown in just a few months.
I noticed the wordiness, choppiness, and repetitive word choice. And that’s okay — because I’ve gotten better. A lot better.
Every time we write, we:
- Learn to explain ideas more precisely.
- Expand our vocabulary.
- Understand nuance and become more adept at descriptions.
This is done with every piece of writing we create — even stuff we’d never want someone else to read. It’s all part of our deepening skill and expertise.
We learn by doing. It’s how we discover our cadence and rhythm.
Honor anything you’ve written, even if you decide to press delete. It got you where you are right now. It served your calling and your art.
It had value beyond an audience.
2. It can be a goldmine for more/better ideas.
Our old work or unpublished drafts can serve us now by creating even more ideas and perspectives.
Also — and this is so important — it shows us where we have grown and deepened our comprehension of the craft.
I believe in divine timing.
Something we write now may give us the idea for the novel we feel deeply connected to creating a few years down the road.
Everything builds on everything else — it compounds. Life is a cumulative experience and so is expanding a skill set.
An idea we had for an article yesterday may morph into something today and be a stronger point of view. This is why we must never rush to publish something that doesn’t feel quite right or complete.
If your intuition says to wait, please wait!
Some work is a dress rehearsal. It gets us to the big opening night.
If you keep a list of ideas like me, remove any pressure to write about them all. Some of them serve to springboard you towards another idea or story.
Allow the list to serve you and not the other way around.
3. We can use bits and pieces in future writings.
I start lots of articles that end up unfinished for one reason or another.
Many times, parts or sections from previous work end up being perfect for something I am presently working on.
Even if I have to edit a bit, I end up serving myself because what I previously created now really hits home.
Go through some of your older work you may have lost interest in and see if anything resonates now. Life works in cycles and themes come back around.
Who knows? Your next viral piece could be lurking in there? And now, you have improved skills to bring it to life.
Work we don’t have interest in publishing (but we still feel connected to) can be used:
- As pitches and work/copy examples.
- To peak interest or sell an idea.
- To share with a fellow writer who has expertise in different areas of writing to collaborate on a project.
Keep creating, that’s the key.
Our past work can be used in so many creative ways, especially if we team up and go for a common goal.
Maybe you have an award-winning screenplay idea and you didn’t even know it.
As artists, it’s important to remember a lot of what we do is behind the scenes.
An article that takes someone a few minutes to read may have taken hours to craft and get just right.
Honor yourself for this unseen work and any work that may never be public. It gave you a chance to get better, which is a gift.
When I was an actress years back, auditions were priceless because it was an opportunity to perform and practice what I loved to do.
Even if what we write today never sees the light of day, it was our chance to audition and practice.
It will always serve us in some form or another.