It’s easy to forget sometimes where your initial passion for an artform came form, especially if you’ve been doing it for a while. It is not surprising that the idea of teenage poetry is such a cliche, because it is a time when there are a lot of changes happening in your life (“shit went down” as Mary Richert puts it in the video above) and for perhaps the first time in your life you’re really consciously reflecting upon the world around you and your role within it. Yet in later life we can look back at this period of life with creative contempt. After all the worst thing a person can say about your work is that is ‘sophomoric’ (even if you are a sophomore!).
For me this kind of reflection served an infinitely practical purpose, it helped me know myself. It was a way of mapping my own emotional landscape. In a very real sense I didn’t know what I thought until I read back what I had written (and this is true even today when it comes to blog posts and other writings). A page in a notebook could become a medium for conversations that never happened anywhere else and for confessions I didn’t dare say aloud.
I don’t think I appreciated it at the time but knowing myself helped my self-confidence enormously. Knowing who you are and what you think and what you value creates such a profound sense of stability in your life. You’re not as easily disoriented when life throws something in your path because you have a personal framework through which to process such things. But even more than that identifying myself as a writer, and taking a lot of pride in my writing, completely changed my life. It gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of identity. The way other people related to me changed too. It’s a funny kind of alchemy, to take all that energy and somehow etch out art and purpose and understanding. [I want to stress the word energy in that sentence too because that is what it was for me. When I started writing I didn’t use words, I literally scribbled. It was borne out of great loneliness and confusion and a gnawing gaping empty feeling in my stomach. Eventually those frenetic scribbles became words – at first other people’s, song lyrics mostly, and eventually my own. Had someone described this journey to me before I took it myself I would’ve thought them quite mad.]
So by all means revisit those ‘teen angst journals’ if you are fortunate enough to still have them in your posession. But don’t get hung up on your technique, your own perceived artistry or lackthereof. Rather revisit the passion that brought you here – that initial ‘big bang’ of your own creativity, your own personal creative genesis. I am willing to bet that there are things you knew back then that you have since forgotten and themes and ideas that would be worth revisiting with the life experience you have now.