That is what I was told when I started writing. Never, ever, ever read your work once it has been published. Just don’t do it. If you do, you will open a rift in time and space that even The Doctor won’t be able to stop. Children will weep in the streets, entire cities will be lost, and Trump will be elected President of the United States.
It is another one of those “cardinal sins” of writing that seems to have just caught on and stuck. The reasons are endless, but when you really get down to it, I am not sure what the point of this law of scribes is all about.
Perhaps it is the worry that you will cringe at your prior work and never write again. The whole, I am the worst writer in the world and I need to stop. Or maybe it has to do with the endless revision cycle that many writers can get into. I’ve warned of this in the past.
Maybe it has to do with the look forward, not back, ideology. This idea the progress only happens if you look to the future. But if you don’t know your past, what is the point of the future?
That’s why I am of the mentality that reading your past work is actually a really good idea. I promise the children will be fine, there will be no rifts in time, and no cities will crumble as a result of you reading your past published stories. I am also pretty sure that Trump and reading have never been related.
Let me explain why it works for me. I think you will see that, like most rules of writing, individual preference is really key.
It helps me to find my muse again. I have a terrible time with my muse. She, like the writer she inspires, likes to travel. The problem is she never takes me with her and never returns without me having to hunt her down.
Sure, she calls every now and again but she never seems to return until I start reading my work. It is like she stops and goes, wait we wrote that shit. We are pretty bad ass, lets do this shit.
It reminds me. I have a terrible memory. I need the reminder of what my characters were doing and what exactly I edited out before. You see, when I write a story the story sticks. And I forget that I cut our a scene, or that I changed a character’s gender.
My novels live in my head. The world is continuing to go on well after I stopped writing the story, and when I go to write the sequel I don’t always remember where I stopped.
It builds my confidence. This is especially true when I read my short stories. I always go back to the publication that published them and read them again.
It reminds me that I am good enough to be published. That someone else read my story and loved it enough to put into their publication. It lets me know that I can do this, that it is worth the time out of my day to write something. A lot like reading my reviews, I find it a reminder that other do want to read what I put to paper.
If I won’t even read my novels, why should anyone else? I know that is really silly sounding, but I believe it. If a novel I wrote isn’t worth the time for me to read, and reread, then why would others read it once.
I suppose this comes from my leadership mentality. I’ve worked as a leader in my day job for so long and I’ve always believed that I shouldn’t expect my staff to do anything I wouldn’t do. And I guess the same goes for my readers. I wouldn’t expect them to read anything I wouldn’t read.
It may be four simple reasons, but they are the reasons why I will read what I write even after it has been published. I don’t feel like my worlds have to die as soon as I put them to paper.
There really are not any rules for writing, your method is your own. Feel free to break a few of them every now and then. You just might find that you’re better for it.
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