You never forget. Do you? That first love. The first erratic heart palpitations, the unbridled joy and shaking knees when they’d walk into the room? It’s true. The memories of those people, places, experiences have shaped the way we approach or flee from similar feelings that arise along the path of our life. It is the same in writing.
I’m sure, if you’re a writer with some years and miles behind you, you’ve gained experience, plowed through or given up on projects, and learned a little bit from every sentence and every stanza. Even if you’re fairly new to the craft, you still probably remember your first attempts and have learned from them, how to be a little better each time.
I still have a folder of my poetry from high school. I don’t keep it in hopes that someday I can revamp them to share with the world. Great goddess no. I keep them to remind myself of the first tremblings of love that struck me when I realized I could put words to paper to mirror the chaos inside. That I could write out feelings and emotions. That I had a voice. That I could use it. I keep those rambling, teenage angsty writings to remind myself of the first throes of passion, as awkward and stumbling as they were, and why every new project should be approached, with the same stirrings of love, excitement and untempered desire.
I also keep them to show myself how far I’ve come. How much I’ve learned, and how much I’ve improved.
I believe the grace and goodness of a writer comes, in part, from remembering the passion and applying our ever-growing knowledge to it. If we’re all one or the other, our writing will either be an incomprehensible mess, fliting off through the meadow picking daisies and talking to forest creatures, or a stoic, by the book repetition of perfectly punctuated lines that feels more like a textbook on fiction, than an actual story.
A good story is a balance of passion and craft and remembering why we fell in love with writing in the first place helps us to approach our new projects with the fervor of that kid in Freshman English without having to rhyme every stanza or create perfect stereotypes for her characters. Just like when you are seeped in first love, your joy shows through your writing when you are doing it without too much emphasis on what it can and should do for your future endeavors, but just to enjoy the shivers it brings you in the present.
At the same time, like the earned experience of an older lover, you know how to manipulate the language, intensify the feelings, and push the right buttons with a perfect amount of pressure to bring your readers over the top in their own emotional response, all while doing it with good grammar and in a timely manner.
So today, take a few minutes and remember your first love (human or word based) and think about what stirred your heart so much about it. Think about the unbridled joy and relentless passion. Try to replicated it on the page, put yourself in the new love phase with your writing and see where it takes you. Don’t stop to judge or rewrite, or edit. Just…do what comes naturally. It’s not like anyone else will be privy to these thoughts. They’re yours alone. So have fun with them.