Good afternoon Reader,
If you’re like me, you hate looking at your old blog posts. It’s like hearing stories about what you did when you were drunk — I really said those things? I really wrote those words?
That’s the odd thing about writing. Unlike other practiced skills like weightlifting, it’s hard to see obvious improvement day-to-day--or even month-to-month. If you want to see how you’ve improved, you have to look at your previous work.
Once you can bring yourself to look at your past writing, you can tap into a vast source of potential ideas to write about. Here’s why.
Your Old Failures Still Have Potential
Writing online can feel like shouting into a void. How many times have you published a story only to have it go nowhere? Usually, my story resonates with the right person and begins to gather steam, but sometimes, it flops and goes nowhere.
That doesn’t mean your idea was bad — it means you need to workshop a little. If I believed that every single one of my “flopped” stories did badly because it was a terrible idea, I’d have nothing left to write about.
Often, it’s not that the idea wasn’t interesting— you just need to:
- rework the title
- pick a jazzier header image
- script a more gripping introduction
By looking over your old stories, you can edit them into a phoenix-like revival, worthy of your original idea and more likely to get the attention they deserve.
You’ve Probably Changed Your Mind Since You Wrote That Story
Back in 2019-2020, I looked over my old stories and found that one of my most popular ones was about apologizing, and how we do it too much. And you know what? Since writing that story, I’ve changed my mind about that subject. I’d forgotten that I’d even written that story until I was scrolling months back through my stats and spotted that headline. Right there, I was inspired to write a new story about how to use apologies correctly.
As you get better at writing, you grow as a person. You write more, think more, read more. Going over your old stories gives you a chance to review and revise those previously held opinions — maybe giving yourself an idea or two in the process.
By reviewing old stories, especially stories that you wrote from a place of emotion, you’re going to spark that old emotion again, in either agreement or disagreement. That emotion is all you need to write a new story.
You Steal From Others — Why Not Steal From Yourself?
One of my favorite quotes about writing is that good artists copy, while great artists steal. When I’m looking for stories to write about, my first port of call is often Tumblr. If Tumblr doesn’t yield any ideas, I head on over to the news. Failing that, I go to Medium to see what’s happening there.
Many of our stories aren’t truly original — they’re inspired by something or someone else. They can be a comment on someone else’s opinion or a summary of current research.
So why overlook your own stories as a potential source of recycling, instead of someone else’s? Instead, feel free to upcycle your old inspiration into a new story.
You’ve Already Done the Work, But You Haven’t Gone the Extra Mile
Writing is a very labor-intensive process. It can take anywhere from hours to weeks of your time to make sure each word is perfect.
On any story you’ve written, whether you’ve changed your mind or not on the subject, you’ve already done the legwork of doing your research, thinking about each existing opinion, and formulating your own.
What you may not realize is that there’s still juice in those ideas. For example, I recently wrote an article about how I grew my website hits from ~5k to ~26k/month. Then I wrote a separate article, inspired by the research I'd done for that first article, about how I used SEO to generate articles and what happened when I did.
Maybe you’re afraid of recycling stories, like me. You believe your audience only wants fresh, new content. But when you refuse to look at your old stories as a source for potential new stories, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Gather the courage you need to dive into your old, bad writing and give yourself a second chance. Hope you have a great rest of your week, Reader.
As always, my inbox is open: any questions, concerns, or comments? Send 'em my way.
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