All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Old Writing vs. Good Writing

I received a quite unexpected blast from the past recently. It was brought to my attention that the newspaper I worked for (now defunct) back in the early 1990s just had all its back issues placed in public archives, available for anyone to peruse as long as they have access to this internet thing. This newspaper gig was in the days before I even considered working in economics - I was the production director, of all things - so it was a different life back then. Furthermore, this meant that my work - design, writing some articles, etc. - was now all on public display.

That part kind of horrified me.

Me, circa 1992
It isn't just that pictures of me back in my 20s were published (was I ever so young?), but every mistake I ever made that went to print is now out there for the world to see. Somewhere in a Johannesburg internet café, a total stranger can flip through those pages and say, "Hah! That idiot spelled February wrong!" My humiliation is now a globalized thing. Yes, it's an entire career ago, and I haven't even worked in the newspaper industry since Clinton was president, but that's not the point. The point is, the shame of my youth is now out there in digital black and white.

Now this shouldn't be too upsetting to most of you, and I am sure the rest of you will survive. Even I will make it through this, mostly because it gives me a chance to bring up something that all writers should do - review my old work. I spent five years doing production work, designing issue after issue of that damn weekly paper, and with it I made a bunch of mistakes. However, I can hold my head proud in that each of those mistakes taught me something that made the next issue that much better, and that sometimes, I actually produced some quality work.

Our old writing should have the same effect on us. We should be able to pick up something we wrote way back when - last month, last year, whenever - and see where we could've made it better. Furthermore, we should be able to see some part where we think, "That's a nice little turn of a phrase." In short, just because our old writing is not as good as what we do now, it doesn't mean it wasn't good. Considering what part of the writer's journey we were on at that particular time, we always deserve some credit for every step we take toward that goal of improving our craft. Even the worst writing is good if only for the reason that we took the step of creation and brought something into existence. It might never win a Pulitzer, but most things don't. They just serve as solid reminders that we pursued the goal of improvement, and hopefully we still do.

So, as for the newspaper, it is now a part of the internet, there for everyone to read, enjoy, mock, or whatever. I can look at the issue where I misspelled February if I wish - no harm - or wonder how I ever thought a particular design would ever work out. Or I can look at everything I learned from those years in the trenches, and take on a certain sense of pride. (And I can also look at the layout awards we received from the Associated Collegiate Press. That helps too.)


  1. I read a book by Andy Rooney that touched on it

  2. I created a newspaper with my fourth grade class, before most schools had computers in every classroom. I'm glad that layout won't see the light of day.

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