On my shelf I have a large, three ring binder. It’s at least five inches thick and every bit of that is packed with pages. Inside is an Excel spreadsheet of every character I created between 1995 and 2004. There’s over 200 of them listed, each line color-coded for the various stories they were in.
There’s another spreadsheet that serves as a synopsis of every chapter, with the original titles and what each scene was about. All told, it’s about 4000 pages worth of story fodder.
The rest of the binder is neatly tabbed with every scene as well.
This binder embodies the ideas for the very first novel I wanted to write, and serves as a record of the very first creative writing forum I ran for nearly ten years.
There was a lot of good writing in there…and a lot of garbage too.
When I look at the early days I can see how green I was. I wrote every day with my fellow gamers, sometimes all day when we had the time and we got better. We learned from one another. We brainstormed, tossed in ideas, plot twists and lots of conflict. We learned how to improvise, stretch our imagination, and to think outside the box before we knew there was a box to think outside of. We often came up with brilliant solutions for the situations our characters found themselves in. We had drama, comedy and lots of angst. The boards were our support system, our cheering section and hardest critic.
We watched each other grow as writers. Each post was a marker on a writing timeline, a photo album composed of nothing but words. Month to month and year to year we could see how our writing had improved. Sometimes even week to week. We’d look back at our very first posts, sadly shake our heads and say “I can’t believe I wrote that.” and then look at our most recent ones and say “I can’t believe I wrote that!”
We wrote when we were inspired. We wrote when we weren’t. We knew when we were having a good day and writing sheer awesomesauce and we knew when we were writing crap.
I have to say these years served as a boot camp for my writing now. I still know when I’m being a genius and it feels like I’m channeling my characters straight from my brain into the computer without the keyboard middleman. I also know when I’m writing crap and pushing through muck because I refuse to acknowledge the existence of writer’s block.
My writing has improved considerably and I know that before all is said and done, I’ll continue to hone that skill. I’ll look back to Loyalties one day and smile fondly, maybe noticing how I’d do things differently or wanting to fix some rookie error I hadn’t noticed before.
You’ll do it too. You’re growing all the time. What you write now isn’t the same as what you wrote five or ten years ago, or even last year for that matter.
Go ahead, dig out that old notebook you used to have. You know the one, it’s full of stories and poems, the ones you’ve never shared with anyone else. Take a little stroll down memory lane and celebrate how far you’ve come. What do you see there?