As a writer, what do you do after you have penned and even published a piece of writing? Whether you write publicly or privately, you often want to move on to a new creation and leave the written work behind you.
After all, you have accomplished the uphill task of creating the content. So why not let that work belong to the people or die somewhere in the corner of the internet?
Or, if you are like me, allow it to gather dust in your archives, then later give it a new home in the trash can. Never to look at it again, while convincing yourself that only greatness lies ahead of you with a new piece.
While there are genuine reasons for ignoring past writings—being short on time, or feeling ashamed of what you will find—every writer must eventually go back to their earlier works. I do not mean merely skimming through for curiosity or display, but conducting a thorough audit on them.
The profits for doing so are immense, and they go a long way in making your writing journey much better.
Today, I’m sharing my nine reasons for taking the time to review your past work, even if your writing schedule is crazy busy.
Let’s get started.
1. Know Whether You Are Achieving Your Objectives
We writers usually have several reasons for writing, such as hobbies, saleability, working in our comfort zone, educating, and sharing experiences. While knowing your objectives is easy, finding whether you are still on course with these objectives is the most challenging part.
Many times, we tend to sway away from our core objectives. This can come from a rejection of our manuscript by a publisher or a nasty review posted on social media on how our writing is terrible.
Or just the usual jealousy of other writers. The next step is that we want to copy these writers, thinking that it is the only way to achieve fame. We quickly forget about our goals and that every writer has to craft their own path.
How then can you get past this envy of friends and criticism on social media and make sure they don’t take a toll on you?
Obviously, it’s not with the article you are crafting now or from comments on writing groups.
Instead, it can happen by reconnecting with your past work. You will be able to answer those naysayers and nuke envy because you can point to your real writing objectives to answer questions such as why you write or how you knew you were a writer.
Your past pieces will tell you if you are still on course with your writing objectives, or have veered off course to imitate another writer, and whether your writing is beneficial or solving a problem.
2. Get More Ideas for Your Next Piece
Having written online content for quite some time, I know how hard it is to get ideas for an article or a book. Often, you find that most ideas you have are already taken. If not, you either fight writer’s block or come up with writing excuses, such as not setting aside time for writing or fear of failing.
A trick I found useful when sourcing for new writing ideas was going back and having a solid look at my past pieces. Most times, I found juicy materials embedded in the slush pile that would fit my current framework, replenish my creativity tanks, and fight off writing excuses.
Additionally, to avoid investing lots of time on content creation, I could look at those past works with a mature perspective and could repurpose where needed. Revisiting previous articles also gives me ideas to venture into other areas of writing outside my comfort zone.
3. Get Motivated to Start Writing Again
What if you have taken a writing hiatus and are planning to get back into the game? How do you find the inspiration to get started? How do you unblock and bring back your writing mojo?
Of course, you cannot start from just anywhere. You need to do an audit of your past work to help you decide whether you need to start something new or continue with the previous objectives you had before the hiatus and determine what you will use to achieve those objectives.
An audit will tell you why you took a hiatus, and if it was as a result of a lack of motivation, or your creativity juices emptied, it will help recharge your imaginations and restore your passion for this craft, or just getting your mind in the headspace to write again.
4. Use the Appropriate Resources
When writing, it’s always important to have the correct tools for the job. Resources, such as Scrivener and Microsoft Word, help us with editing, collaborating, publishing, and, most importantly, saving our work.
If you prefer typing over handwriting your work, then chances are your past writings are all saved on files and backup drives somewhere on your laptop or in the cloud. If you ever decide to jump in and audit some of your past works, you may find weird errors in your previous work that could’ve come from either simple distraction or procrastination. However, human error isn’t always the case.
Jeff Goins, a blogger, swears by Scrivener after years of MS Word frustration. He states: “As a writer, I basically just want to write. I don’t want to have to worry too much about making sure the tools work right or having to fix some funky formatting because of an invisible rule that Word set up because it ‘intelligently’ thought I was doing something that I wasn’t.”
He goes on to talk about the frequent issues he has with the platform such as complicated functions, irrelevant features, ugly design, and most frightening, its constant crashing.
As you go back and perform your audits, you may find that those simple mistakes could easily be the cause of the resource(s) you had used in order to create those works. Should that information tell you to get a tool to help you handle distractions and procrastination while writing, as well as cover the basics with ease? I believe it should.
5. Identify Areas for Improvement
As you review the past pieces, you will identify issues you thought you had solved in your writing journey. But as you already know, old habits die hard.
The easiest bad habits you’ll likely find, among many, are lack of clarity in context and a shifting focus from the real aim of the piece.
To overcome these habits, examine your strengths and weaknesses from your past work, find out how to improve, and see what steps you can take to make these improvements. In addition to this information inventory, an audit will show you your content gaps and areas where you think you tend to lack information.
By identifying these impediments, you will become better equipped to create exceptional content that adds value to your audience and your brand.
6. Explore Other Sources of Income and Marketing
For authors who need to promote their books, this is where an audit of past writings becomes invaluable. While there are several ways you can tell people to buy your book, one good way to do so is to blog about your work.
But you cannot start from just anywhere. You need the inspiration, writing tips, and topics that will catch the short attention span of online readers. Sifting through past pieces could give you these hidden gems that will work with an online audience.
Auditing past books can also inspire you to determine which books you might be able to turn into book trailers or playlists to engage and reach a wider audience. It will also tell you how to add extras like an activity kit to go with your book similar to that of Easter Elf by Rochelle Groskreutz as a way of not only increasing your revenue or website traffic, but also adding value to your story or book.
7. Audit for Competitor Analysis and Benchmarking with Fellow Writers
I have talked much about examining personal works, but this process shouldn’t stop there. There are past works of other writers to audit as well. In the end, the main goal is to beat the competition as much as to improve in this art.
Auditing prior works of other writers will help you understand how your competitors are gaining popularity and attracting more clients. In this benchmarking process, you will also discover opportunities and insights that you can use to develop your writing and a winning strategy.
It’s also a great way to find and connect with writing friends who’ll mention your works in online directories and other publications, as well as great people to bounce ideas off of every now and then.
8. Track Your Progress
Writing is a long journey, involving several stops, adventures, and learning. There are also many discoveries to be made.
Unfortunately, we writers often work alone, and thus, have no one to help us keep track of our progress. This means we get fewer opportunities to gain relevant feedback on our work.
To successfully track your progress, you need to revisit your past work. The sole purpose is to gather your own feedback and measure that feedback or progress toward your objectives. Other ways to track your progress is to look at the number of hours worked to complete a first draft. You can also use a website like 750words.com to help you stay accountable and manage your work. This will help you to stay motivated when you see all the improvements, and most importantly, identify your challenges and ways to overcome them.
9. Plan for a Writing Coach
I don’t know why, but for many writers, using a writing coach is the last thing we would want to do. Unfortunately, we often make mistakes when seeking the services of these experts by jumping in with both feet.
The worst tends to happen when we get carried away by all the success stories of established writers and their coaches. This leads us to believe we too need the services of a writing coach in order to reach their level of success. This brings us to the question: How do I know if I need the services of a writing coach?
The answer lies in, you guessed it, reconnecting with your past writings. By carrying out an in-depth analysis of your old pieces, you can make your work, and that of the coach, easier by identifying and tackling the real problems affecting your work.
This could, however, have the opposite effect in that reviewing your past work could help you identify these mistakes yourself without needing a coach at all! Either way, it’s easy to see the benefits a simple audit can make in your writing success.
Treat Auditing Like a Refresher Course in Writing
When we think about writing and publishing literary works, we often ignore the value of past writings and give several excuses for doing so.
I understand that we as writers are full of excuses, yet this shouldn’t be the case. We should look back at those previous pieces with pride, and acknowledge that by revisiting them, we can learn to do a better job while growing and improving in our careers as writers.