The 9 Emotional Stages Of Reading Your Old Writing

Have you ever stumbled upon an forgotten journal or notebook and read through your old stuff? If so, than you know the many emotional stages you go through when you read your childhood writing. It's a roller coaster ride, to say the least.

From the poetry of my childhood to the Harry Potter-inspired stories of my adolescence to the emotionally-charged journals of my teen years, I have been writing one thing or another for as long as I can remember. If I wasn't up late at night reading with a flashlight under my covers, I was jotting down all of my thoughts, feelings, and ideas, convinced each one was as brilliant as those of the professional writers I looked up to. Whenever I wrote, whatever I wrote, I was always so sure that anytime I put my pen to paper, I was recording a *very important* story that was pure gold. Now that I have a solid decade, not to mention a writing degree and years of experience as a professional, between the writing of my youth and now, I can see clearly now what I couldn't then: I was no Sylvia Plath.

In fact, whenever I find my old notebooks, I go through the typical nine emotional stages of reading old writing, and I have to say, it's always a doozy. If you've ever spent the afternoon diving into old diaries, you know exactly what I mean.


When you first stumble upon an old notebook, journal, or diary, you can't wait to dive in and see what little you was thinking all those years ago. In fact, if you remember correctly, you were a pretty good writer back in the day.


Flip through just a few pages, and you'll be overcome with feelings of nostalgia for your childhood. If the Lisa Frank notebook cover isn't enough to have you feeling sentimental, the way you used to write about what you wanted to do when you grow up certainly will.


Once you decide to actually read your old writing, though, those warm-and-fuzzy feelings start to morph into something... confusing. Reading your old worlds is like meeting a stranger, and you can't help thinking to yourself, "was I always so angry/sad/dramatic?"

Yes. Yes you were.


Dive a little deeper and the shame will start to set in. You can't help but cringe at your younger self for what you thought was "good writing," whether it be a story, a poem, or — worst of all — a diary entry. Part of you wants to reach through a time portal and smack your younger self for being so embarrassing. Thank god you grew out of it... sort of.


Once the shame starts to fade, you can't help but feel a little moved by your old writing. It wasn't all bad, and in fact, you actually have some good ideas in there. Maybe you weren't such a bad writer after all. Maybe some of this stuff is worth saving.


Even after you find some pretty impressive writing, you can't help but squeeze out a tear or two when pouring over your old material. Some of this stuff is just saw raw and emotional. You had dreams, you had hopes, you had unrealized love with the cool older guitarist in your school. Each new diary entry, each new confession in the form of a poem, each new story about kid not so much unlike you makes your heart break just like it did all those years ago.


If you can pull yourself out of the mindset of younger you, you'll find that heartbreak is only surface deep. You have hindsight now, and you realize you're relieved all of those things you wished for, and all of those things you wrote, are in the past. They're part of you, sure, but you are relieved to know things worked out for the better. Well, mostly.


Looking back through old writing, and it's impossible not to at least feel a little pride for your drive as a kid. You can't believe you had the patience to write a 200-page Hermione fanfiction story or an entire notebook full of love poems. Back then, you had the guts to put your passion to paper, and that's something to be proud of. Way to go, little you.


By the time you get to the end of your childhood writing notebook, you've been on a roller coaster ride of emotions, but it all lead you to feel one thing: inspired. If little you had so much drive and passion for the written word, why can't big you? You're ready to take the writing of your youth and step it up a notch. Go ahead, make that little kid who dreamed of becoming a writer proud. At least you know it can't get any worse than what you've already written, right?