Be kind to the writers you’ve been

There was a 15-year break between the first poem I ever published in a literary magazine and the second. And I never thought I’d see the first one again.

Alas, there’s nothing like moving to unearth boxes of stuff you’d long forgotten about.

My husband and I moved in April (which means we’ll likely still be unpacking next April). This weekend, I opened a box that, I swear, contained things I hadn’t seen in well over a decade (which makes me think I packed it not at my old house, where I lived for 10 years, but possibly at my apartment before that … or, Lord, maybe the apartment before that??)

Anyway, I found the Spring 2005 edition of Luna Negra, the literary magazine at my alma mater, Kent State University. It included a poem I wrote, my first published poem.

As any writer will tell you, reading old work–especially when “old” means “senior year of college, 17 years ago”–can be a cringy experience. Few people will judge our old selves as harshly as our current selves. Because obvioiusly, over those 17 years, I’ve grown, changed, and improved as a writer. To review an old piece is to mentally edit it, to judge–often harshly–the the writer we used to be.

And I don’t want to do that.

That writer I used to be tried. Hard. She was deeply earnest. Embarrassingly so. And yet, I tell myself not to be embarrassed. She needed to exist for each subsequent iteration of Writer Jac, including this one, who will likely make Writer Jac circa 2039 (and 2056 and 2073) cringe, too.

So I share my poem, “Baseball and Burgundy,” without the opinions or revisions of 39-year-old Jac. Because the 21-year-old who wrote this thought it was delightful, and that’s enough.

To any creatives reading this, I encourage you to look back at your younger creator with kind eyes. Love that artist you used to be. She paved the way for the artist you are now, even if she ((insert your go-to embarrassing trait here)) (mine’s didn’t edit her poetry because “you can’t edit art!” Puke).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: