Looking Back

Simultaneously one of the best and worst things about being a writer is that you will always have concrete evidence of your past work, and can pinpoint the exact moment when you were shit (or at least, shitter than right now) and when you started finding your groove.

This morning I stumbled across an old Tumblr of mine from 2010-11. I’ve had a stack of blogs over the years, mostly little concept projects I started in a spate of boredom with a barrel of confidence and ideas that were never really fulfilled, with titles I thought were cool at the time – Gold Wax and Strobe Life (named after the track off The Bronx’s first album) are ones that stick out. The one I found this morning was a weird one, just a load of videos followed by some variation on “I don’t know why I like this but I do.”

I made some big calls.

I described The Weeknd as “cheesy, lovesick r’n’b over the top of hazy, stupid, boring post-dubstep”; I declared “Tyler The Creator is going to be bigger than Kanye”; I said Les Savy Fav sounded like a “Smashing Pumpkins tribute band that finally strikes out on its’ own, once they gain the tiny amount of self-belief to write their own songs, to sound like.”

At the same time however, I wrote this about Sleigh Bells’ track ‘Infinity Guitars,’ and it’s probably in the Top 5 List Of Things I’ve Ever Written: “The breakdown at the halfway point is so skull-crushingly huge, it seems to actually attain physical mass. I listen to this in my car, and the air becomes thicker. Fatter. Denser. If sound travels as waves, this is a tsunami waiting to devastate some nameless Pacific island nation. It’s M.I.A on meth, but minus the pneumatic rapping and the political agenda. It’s Crystal Castles if Alice Glass were capable of smiling or mentally contemplating anything besides blackness and soul-crushing angst.”

And this is the best and worst thing about writing. Because it’s so easy to look back and see where you came from, what you were doing and seeing and listening to or thinking about at any point in time – going back to that blog, it was a time when my listening habits were almost exclusively Sleigh Bells and polished big budget pop-punk – and see how you’ve changed and grown. I actually cringed at some of the things I’d written on that blog, but back in 2010 or 2011 or whenever it was, I was pretty proud of that writing and thought I was a real G for doing what I was doing.

I was having this exact same conversation with a photographer at work this week (I work at a daily newspaper). We were talking about how, when he started as a trainee photographer at age 18 or so, he could barely take a photo at all – he said he looks back at the work he was doing then, and can’t believe how bad it was. The publishing profession, along with performance and art, is almost unique in that it is incredibly easy to compare your output and work over time. If you’re an accountant or scientist or engineer or teacher or shopkeeper or chef or whatever, it’s pretty hard to compare how you’ve grown and changed. You might get your tax returns finished quicker, or do better experiments, or do better marketing or advertising or whatever, but it’s difficult to see where you’ve come from and how you’ve matured or learnt from your past. For me, I can see exactly what I was writing a few years ago and simultaneously laugh and internally cringe at the things I’d put down to paper.

And that’s great. Because seeing how shit some of my work was is such a massive motivator – because no doubt, in a few years, I’ll look back at the stuff I’ve written in 2013 and think simultaneously laugh and internally cringe at the quality. I’m still learning and finding my way in terms of being a writer, but seeing how much I’ve grown and learnt and matured in just a few short years is a big boost and motivator to keep on truckin’.

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