Have you ever gone digging through your old work? Especially stuff you wrote in your teens? I was cleaning up my desktop, backing up files, tra-la-la, and I discovered a ‘poems’ folder that I hadn’t opened since high school.
I cringed, and opened the file. I read through some of them. They were simple, especially in terms of style and depth. The striking thing turned out to be the subject matter. Thematically they were all the same.
The things I write about now are more complex, long-winded versions of the same experience! The bad relationships in my stories all thrive–and are torn apart by–conflict. Sacrifice, bitterness, violence and the dry-eyed acceptance of loneliness were in almost every old poem I wrote. That stuff seems typical of every high-school experience, but I realize that these sorts of themes are also still showing up in all my novels and short stories. There’s something about that experience I’m still turning over in my hands. It’s possible that every time I’ve been driven to write, from childhood until now, the trigger has remained the same. I sometimes wonder if lifelong immersion in one mode or another is healthy for a mind. Do we do damage to our psyche by returning to the same themes; or do we write to stave off the cancer that consumes us from within?
When you look back at the body of your work, what do you think?
“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” ― Marcus Aurelius