On Writing: A Gift to Your Future Self

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When I sat down to write something for this blog, I had to flip through page after page of my daughter’s doodles to search for a clean sheet. (I’m organized enough to pre-plan my blog posts, but not organized enough to keep clean paper on my desk.) I was nearing the end and had almost given up hope, when I flipped a sheet and stopped. “My dearest Elizabeth, Though I have not received a reply from you…” Ooh, I thought. Was this a prompt I did at a writing group? Perhaps I was writing from the viewpoint of a civil war soldier? “…I shall write you again anyways, because I’m bored and I have nothing else to do. I’m sitting at a Taco Bell…” Well, that doesn’t sound right. Then I realized: I was reading a letter I had written a friend more than 12 years ago, but never mailed! It was a present from Past Kate to Present Kate! It was written back when I was just me, not a wife or a mother. Back when I was working my first “big girl” job and living in a little town in Kentucky, far away from any friends or family. I mostly wrote about my boring day-to-day life and my new coworkers, all but forgotten now. Discovering this old letter, in essence a journal entry, put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

But blasts from the past aren’t always so sweet. I spent most of this past Friday night organizing my laptop. Files were scattered throughout the hard drive like confetti, and as I scooped them into piles, I came across a file entitled “Blogs from MySpace.” This, apparently, was where I stored all my old ramblings from my early 20’s. It’s been 10+ years since I made the transition from MySpace to Facebook, so I was quite curious – what had I thought was too funny or poignant to let go?

Well, it turned out that Past Kate had quite a different sense of humor than Present Kate. Past Kate apparently thought four-letter words and vulgarity were the height of humor. I was trying to be a shock comic, but I lacked the comic. I cringed the whole way through this 104-page rant, which covered about 4 years’ worth of me spewing whatever little thought I had into the void and begging for validation.

When I finally was done, my mouse hovered for a long time over the Delete option. Everything I’d written was absolute trash and yet…

…I kept it. Because looking back at it reminded me of how far I’ve come. Although I still swear like Francis Begbie, I don’t rely on my favorite 4-letter words to shock people into laughing. If I feel this way about my writings from 15 years ago, how will I feel in another 15 years? I’m sure I’ll feel embarrassed over some stuff, but I also know that if I do, that’ll only mean that I’ve continued to improve.

I know that most of us discard our unusable ideas and drafts, thinking, “What junk. Into the garbage with you!” But perhaps we should keep some of those. Think of them as gifts from Present You to Future You. It’s hard to predict how much joy you may get from uncovering those writings in the future. But finding some old journal entry, letter, or even garbage blog may just be the greatest gift you’ll give yourself that day.

Tell me the best thing you’ve ever lost and found at Kate@KateLanders.com.