How to Stop Feeling Ashamed of Old Writing Projects #ASMSG #Writers 


A few years ago your old writing project was the best thing ever. It put a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye. At the time of writing this great literary masterpiece you were positive it would be the turning point in your literary career.

You spent hours, days, weeks and months working on this project. It was all you talked about and everyone around you was given a regular update on its progress, whether they wanted one or not. When you were not working on it you were busy daydreaming about…getting stuck in a lift with a literary agent, sneaking it out of your bag (all 300 A4 sheets) and whilst they were hammering on the lift emergency button you would whisper, “whilst we wait to be rescued, you could read something I wrote…earlier…(cough cough)”.  

Roll forward to the present day. The love you had for this project is now a distant memory. For whatever reason you moved onto writing other stories. However the sight of this past project now fills you with shame and a little bit of nausea. You find yourself saying stuff like, “what possessed me to write that story?” and “maybe I was insane when I wrote that and…(gasp) no one told me….(scream!).”

Sadly your old project wasn’t the turning point in your literary career. You are now glad the whole getting stuck in a lift with a literary agent scenario didn’t happen because it was in fact 300 sheets of literary wrongs. Ugh! How could you write such drivel?

The feeling of shame nibbles away at you. This past writing project had the worst opening chapter ever, the characters were flat and you had a nasty obsession with clichés. What you can’t understand is why anyone read it?

Someone asks you about that old project you were working on. Quickly you steer the conversation away and wish everyone would experience amnesia with regards your old work. More reminders of your old writing project crop up in your daily life and it’s like the universe is slowly torturing you.

Toxic writing thoughts are like wildfires and spread quickly throughout your mind. Soon negative feelings towards this past project cloud your thoughts and before you know it you have stopped working on your new projects and are thinking about quitting.

So how do you turn this potentially toxic situation around?  Here’s how to stop feeling ashamed of old writing projects:

  1. Let them go. Stop holding onto all those negative feelings and wasting valuable energy. Make peace with them and let your past projects go.
  2. Forgive yourself. Do it! You wrote something which wouldn’t pass your quality control check today. We have all done this. It’s not a crime and no one died as a result of reading your bad thriller. Stop beating yourself up about it.
  3. Remember what you learned from this project. Every story we write teaches us something new. I am a firm believer of this. What did you learn through writing your old project?
  4. Accept the following – without this past project you would not be the writer you are today. It gave you the foundations for your writing career. This project set you up to write the next story and the story after that. You needed to write it to move forward.
  5. Think about your journey after writing this story. Did it spark your imagination for something else? Did one of the minor characters cry out with “please write a story with about me!” Thinking like this will make you see how valuable it was for you to write your old story because good things came from it.
  6. Be grateful. Show it some gratitude. The idea for a story showed up and you wrote it. Whilst you were creating it you had a wonderful time and for a short time in your literary career you experienced many creative highs. From some blog posts and writer tweets I have read lately some writers would love to experience this.
  7. Only for the brave – one day go back to it. Try to read it with a critical eye. Turn off your toxic mindset and read it. I have done this and its the most painful thing ever but you never know what might be hidden inside it!

Don’t let writer shame spoil your day writers and don’t grimace at the thought of old writing projects. They have helped turn you into the writer you are today.

Stand proud writer!

photo credit: Marta Nørgaard N07/7241726682″>Love will tear us apart. via photopin (license)

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Lucy Mitchell lives in South Wales with her husband, her two teenage daughters, a giant labrador and a gang of unruly cats. Lucy is the author of the award winning blog, BlondeWriteMore and was a Featured Romance Author on Wattpad. When she’s not working or writing, Lucy can be found listening to audiobooks in a muddy field with her dog or sat outside her local pub in the sunshine enjoying a glass of wine. Her debut novel Instructions Falling In Love Again is OUT now and already pulling in some fabulous reviews ❤️

28 thoughts on “How to Stop Feeling Ashamed of Old Writing Projects #ASMSG #Writers 

  1. Oh man I needed to read this today. I’ve been working on a project for a few years now and… let’s just say it hasn’t evolved with me. Thanks for this; you reminded me that I’ve grown as a writer and that’s not a bad thing.

  2. So now I’m thinking! This project I’m working on at the moment that I think is brilliant……will it be utterly terrible this time next year?
    Oh nooooooo………
    I’ll let you know Lucy. Lol!

  3. Wonderful & very true post, dear Lucy! C’mon, let’s look at our first writing experiences with humour! We must learn to laugh at ourselves, but to respect our first attempt. It’s always the most difficult one!
    Best wishes,

  4. That’s why I constantly edit, including massive cuts. My first project has become my “workbook.” Ha! No shame in that. With Donna Tartt and many others authors needing ten years to write one book, I feel off the hook.
    Great food for thought, Lucy!

  5. Writing is a journey and quite right to view current stuff and appreciate that without the earlier work then the evolution form there to here would not have happened. Also keep in mind it might not have been a bad idea; and with current writing levels could still produce a much improved piece of work. King, for example, shelved the Dark Tower series for ages and The Stand because he didn’t know where it was going. He also advocates never throwing any writing away because down the line it might find it’s road again or inspire something new. Might be he and I look at old work differently and don’t see the bad, but the potential. Really important (my humble opinion) to keep that evolution argument going too. Without the bad there might never have been the good.

    Another thoughtful post Lucy

      1. I do try and use comments to lob in the positive spin. If you haven’t read Kings book “On Writing” then I’d recommend it as it takes you through his journey and methods. I loved the bit where at the start he had to get a bigger nail to hang the rejection slips on. There is something about seeing even big authors going through the mental angst prior to getting the right deal. Even JK had trouble initially with Harry Potter!! of course we could look at that and think “Flipping heck, if THEY had trouble then I’m stuffed!!” Although that is not particularly helpful !!!!

  6. I think reading old stuff should make one feel good. Look at how much progress you have made! Writers shame should not enter your mind. Just keep on writing and getting better at our chosen craft.

  7. I think the closest I’ve come to this is cringing over the awful storylines and actual writing. But I have nostalgia for the story. I kind of miss writing it, in a way, because it was a time before I really cared about what it turned out like. I just wrote purely for the love of writing. 🙂

  8. This was very useful for me to read today, it helped me to stop beating myself up over an older book I published!
    I like my old characters as they have some aspects of the type of person and things I was going through back then, but today I read through, cringing and snickering at all the extremes, seeing as I’m now coming out of the young-teenager haze of angst.
    I was just about to go around apologizing to the people that have read it, but then as you say: “It’s not a crime and no one died as a result of reading your bad thriller”. Thanks for writing this post!

    1. Thank you for reading! Yes we have to stop beating ourselves up. I also think thriller readers should be grateful I never published my v bad thriller where I gave away the book in first chapter – sigh!

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