As long as you’re alive, there really isn’t a point where you can say that you’re done with writing a piece. Even several years down the line, when you stumble upon something you’ve kept untouched for a long while, it’s impossible to fight back the urge to alter some parts of the piece.
But there’s a problem: you no longer feel the same way.
You’ve out-grown that phase, those nights, those empty bottles in your life, but you can’t bring yourself to disregard the memories you had put down on paper. The tides have changed, and you have vices outside of drowning yourself. Still, you’re longing to see that pain in the rear-view mirror when you’ve driven a long way to get where you want to be. To revise the pieces you wrote when you were in middle school would be to change them, completely.
Where do you start?
The most obvious way to do this is to keep the structure and change the content. Write a parody of your old works. Tell a completely different story with the same tongue, following the breaths of your younger self, unhinging your jaw in the same manner, drowning in the same-colored waves. Using the same structure, you’re almost teaching the past versions of you how to live, how to love, how to suffer, how to heal, and how to put that process down with words. You have the freedom of building up and tearing down your own words, and there’s simply no better way of reflecting how much you’ve changed.
To some, however, the method mentioned above would defeat the entire purpose of revision — you’re just writing a new piece. Thus, the alternative: keep the content and change the structure. Sure, you don’t have the same feelings as you did in those forgone years, but you do remember, slightly or engravingly, what those emotions were.
Tell your story not from the perspective of someone going through the storm, but the same person looking back at the splatters, a stream of conscience becomes a confessional poem of what you used to feel when you were younger, and a structured piece is turned into a metaphorical inquiry on how fitting words into rhymes and rhythms was you way of defeat and conformity. To put it simply: if the only lens you can look into the past is in hindsight, then write just that.
The last, much less common revision is to leave the pieces as they are, and instead write the next chapter.
In Taylor Swift’s Daylight, she sings that “I once believed love would be burning red, but it's golden, like daylight” a reference to her Red album released 7 years ago, where she sang the famous line “but loving him was red” in a track of the same name. You can do just the same thing. Talk to your past self, and tell them how right they were about following their gut that night, how wrong they were to stay when they wanted to leave, how grateful you are that they have written everything down for you to reminisce, how sorry you are for discontinuing their childhood dream, and most importantly, how you hope they’ll be proud of who they are. Even though your middle school persona would never get to hear those words, they’re breathing through your lungs, gazing through your vision, and that is enough.
You’re mortal, you’re dynamic, and a million different things — and, and you’re a writer too. It’s not about who you are right now, but who you used to be and who you’ll become, and everything in between.
A few years ago, Taiwanese writer Yun-Fei Wang had begun using fiction as an escapism from the overwhelming sadness of being alive. Now that she's 16, falling deeper than ever, she can fortunately affirm that literature has been, is, and will be the only fragment of sanity in her life. Find her at a silent midnight, or at @immortalrainpoetry on Instagram.