Few things are as terrifying as revisiting one’s own work, particularly after some distance from it.
I decided to pull a Bruce Wayne and confront this fear in 2015: I reread the release version of my first novel, Stronghold, which was self-published on May 28, 2013. After two weeks (around 8 hours total), I had plowed through the text, and I have to admit I was pleased. Inasmuch as that sounds arrogant, please bear with me.
When I was in the midst of writing Stronghold, I was in an immensely optimistic headspace. I was absolutely absorbed with the concept and obsessed with its execution, and I could not have been happier with the novel that I released to the world. I thought I’d sell near to half a million copies by year end.
Then, of course, there’s the reality. Most writers know it well. The folks that you thought could not wait to read it, never do, and the folks who do, think it’s just “fine”—neither a huge catastrophe nor a milestone (though I could argue that either of those is better than “middling”). Point being that my affinity for not the project but my craft itself diminished. As more months passed and fewer reviews came, my adoration of the novel began to feel almost undignified, as if I had been blinded by my passion and produced nothing of substance.
This being the mindset in which I found myself much of the last year, picking up Stronghold on February 9 caused me a bit of unease. What if it was awful; or worse, what if it was hollow? I began to read it as I would any other fiction–but now with pen in hand ready to mark and correct. The necessary revisions started early—a word here, a clause there, etc.
But by the middle of the first chapter, something happened. I realized that despite the imperfections, the writing worked. Each day as I opened the text on the bus, I found that the story played. The content was imperfect, but it was good. By the end, I adored the book nearly as much as I had 18 months prior. Some of it’s flaws had become more glaring, but they were nothing that some judicious revisions could not correct or, at the very least, help.
Bottom line: I still love Stronghold, and in this I think I received some of the greatest encouragement for which I could have hoped: confirmation that I was not wrong the first time, and I may very well not be wrong the next (that is, with my second novel, To Retreat from Romance).
With this in mind, dear readers, I exhort you to take the same chance I did. Think on that old song you recorded or that student film of which you were so proud. Look at it through your present eyes, and see it afresh. You may duly surprised and doubly pleased, not only enjoying the work anew but overjoyed to have enjoyed it still after so much time.
Who knows, it may just be the boost you need to keep moving forward in your creative endeavors!
Thanks for reading,
Enjoy what you are reading??? Let’s connect. I'm currently on Instagram, Letterboxd, Flickr, Twitter, always as CJstunkard.