A few years back, I enrolled in a writing course at my local community college. I’d been away from writing for many years at that point and knew I needed to brush up on my skills. We were instructed to bring in five pages of a piece we were working on to each class.
I chose a short story I’d written in college, eighteen years ago. In the weeks leading up to the class, I did a lot of revising. In fact, I was horrified after my first read through of this piece I’d written so long ago. The story was utter crap filled with the most cookie-cutter, senseless dialogue that would have been rejected by The Brady Bunch for being too hokey. Not sure how I passed that class. Maybe you just had to show up.
That story, originally titled The Attic but changed to Annabel, was actually well-liked by the class at my community college. Of course, this came after heavy revisions. After my first read-through, I was surprised that I’d held onto a story as lacking as this one was. Most of the stories written during my early college years were horrible, but I was only starting out. Surely, a masterpiece couldn’t have been expected.
Hanging onto a binder from a Creative Writing class stuffed with forgettable and badly-written stories for almost eighteen years? Who does that?
I imagine tossing out anything I had written, even the crap, seemed unfathomable to me. So I kept my old stories. For eighteen years. And good thing I did because after a third, fourth, and fifth reread I found that maybe I was on to a little something, all those years ago.
I recently signed a contract for a different short story I had written while I was a student in that small class of about eight classmates almost two decades ago. We’d huddle around one large table and share with each other our creative works.
I don’t think at twenty-two years old I envisioned my future forty-year old self someday revising the stories I was writing and getting them published. But I did and I am. I have more stories to dig up from my past, and though they’ll be far from masterpieces, I’m sure I will find something in those stories worth breathing new life into.
Most people deserve a second chance. Shouldn’t old, tucked-away, not-so-great, stories get one, too?
In the writing course I took at my community college, a woman let it be known that she throws away old work. The class reacted as though she confessed to storing human heads in her refrigerator.
Apparently, I’m not the only writer who believes imperfect, old stories should be kept and given a second chance.
Even if it’s eighteen-years later.
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