I wrote my first book, Nothing to Regret, in the year 2000, on a computer that was miraculously not damaged by Y2K. I was lucky, I guess. In the year 2000, I was 24 years old. My book was considered to be really good for someone so young. Some even went so far as to say that it was good without knowing how old I was when I wrote it, but once they found out, that comment inevitably followed. It was published in 2002, when I was 26.
My second book, Strength to Endure, was written in 2002, when I was 26 (as we just discovered) It was published in 2004.
Now I'm 30. Some might be surprised at my ready admission of my age. I'm actually pretty relieved to be 30. I'm hoping that at some point, the shock of my youngness might wear off and people might be able to enjoy my books on their own merits and not just because I was young when I wrote them.
Anyway, on to the real point of this blog.
As I look back on those first two books, I am very quick to notice all the errors. I can see all the repetitive word choices, the bad grammar, plot holes, things I wish my characters would have said but didn't -- all those things that an author can see but most of the time, the reader can't. And I must admit, I'm much too hard on myself.
I wrote those first books with very little actual training in how to write. I had taken two English classes from BYU Independent Study and one in journalism, also correspondence, and that was the extent of my learning. I was also, as we have pointed out, very young. Considering those elements, I should be more willing to cut myself some slack. Those books are pretty dang good!
But then I compare them to the novels I've written since (as yet unpublished) and I can see how much I've grown as a writer. It makes me wish that I could go back in time and rewrite those first two with everything I've learned in the meantime.
That would be impossible, though. I learned a great deal of what I learned by writing those first two books. They were the testing ground for me. If I had somehow managed to write them perfectly from the start, I wouldn't have had the growth experiences that I've had along the way. I'm a much better writer now for having written what I did then. I've been honing my skills on the bumpy edges of those first books and I think I'm coming out sharper.
So when you look back on the first things you've done, and wish you could go back and somehow make them perfect, don't. Our experiences shape who we become in the future. Look back on those mistakes as gifts, as tools, and then stop thinking about the past and get on with the future. It's a path of progression, one step at a time.