I visited my parents’ house a couple months ago and found binders of poetry in my teenage bedroom. Some of the pieces were bad (as expected) but there were some decent half finished stories that made me wonder: how did I come up with that?; What happened to my writing?; Was I a better writer in the past?; How do I get back to that level?
Maybe I feel like I’ve gotten worse because I’m not getting as much practice. Working a 6:30-to-3 desk job takes away the time and energy I used to have. My muse is notorious for waiting until it’s well past midnight to show up but that routine would not be sustainable. After over a year of not creating anything new, I’ve found that waking up an hour earlier while everyone is still sleeping to be the best time to work on projects. Work still sucks but I’ve now been looking forward to waking up because that means that I’ll be able to start the day with things I want to do. I’m still not generating the same volume of material, though, so it’s harder to get through the bad work. Generating good material is difficult when creating any material at all is a struggle because everything sucks.
Speaking of bad writing: it’s easier to recognize now. With years of schooling and studying language, it’s almost impossible not to. Knowing grammatical errors and literary devices is helpful in editing and revising but it can hinder creativity when sitting down to write. And after having read so many revered works, it’s difficult to think that something more revolutionary can be written. The countless author studies and literary criticism classes seem to be the enemy now, as it’s easier to be more critical of the self. I was struggling with hating everything I write (I mean, I still do but I’m trying to be kinder to myself) until I decided to change things up with sketching, painting, and creating collages.
Actually having to work writing into my schedule is another reason why I think I’m hard on myself: the reason to write has now changed; there’s a different “why.” As a teenager, writing helped to process a changing world. Passion, self-expression, and the ego used to be the driving forces in the past but that’s been lost to fickleness. What need does writing accomplish now? Paying bills? Pleasure? Catharsis? Self discovery?
Maybe I’m not worse now. Maybe I am. Maybe I’ve always been bad. I guess the only way to know is to keep writing.