Every so often I like to look back on some of my original posts to Goose’s Gabs. I do this to see how my writing has changed, how much BU (and its associated student-loan debt) benefited me.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve dramatically reduced my reliance on passive voice. I’ve cut my sentences and paragraphs in half. I edit better and produce, tighter, cleaner copy. I’ve developed a distinctive voice without sacrificing observation, and I cover a much broader scope of topics than I used to.
So should I then do something with my older posts?
Not many know this, but I see Goose’s Gabs primarily as an advertising tool. I want this blog to show off my writing skills to prospective employers. When they read it, they should say, “Wow, this Matt kid can really write! Let’s give him a job! And a company car!”
By leaving my older columns (basically pre-September 2010) intact, I run the risk that an editor reading them may see me as more amateurish a writer than I currently am. Perhaps dumping them entirely – only leaving the gems, as it were – would be advisable.
I could also try rewriting them or, to save time, rewriting at least a few. It might be interesting to try preserving the nuggets of quality while cleaning up the bulk of the muddy, too-long texts. Make it seem as if I rocked from Day 1.
Or I could just leave them as is.
When I was a kid, my friends and I spent a couple of months playing Sim City 2000. For a few days, all we did was try to fix mistakes we had made earlier, such as getting running water to all the houses.
When we finished the city and looked back over the charts, we saw the equivalent of a seven-year period in which the city made no money, barely grew in population and showed a high level of dissatisfaction from the citizens. During our highest periods of growth our early mistakes still showed, but overall the city looked the most robust. Moving forward, it seems, is usually the answer.
But more than accepting old mistakes for the sake of progress, I secretly like the rawness of my original posts. Just like reading an essay I wrote as a 12-year-old, Goose’s Gabs from two years ago hint at the direction my writing would go. They represent the transitional time in my life, going from a warehouse worker to a reporter. The most interesting times in history are usually transitional periods (see: Mad Men).
Other, more famous writers have taken different approaches to this issue. Stephen King, for instance, rewrote The Gunslinger, the first of the seven(plus)-book Dark Tower series, over 20 years after writing the original. He did it because, not yet knowing where the series’ mythology was heading, he felt the original didn’t mesh with the rest of the books.
King’s rewrite successfully tied the original back into the themes of the rest of the series, but in doing that King changed the book’s tone.
By 2003, King had mostly become the cliche famously mocked in Family Guy:
But back in 1982, King still hadn’t settled. He experimented, he explored, he refused to fall back on old habits. For the most part, he didn’t have any yet. The first version of The Gunslinger read with the same raw talent that keeps Salem’s Lot near the top of King’s best works, even 35 years later.
I liked King’s first version more because it showed so much more of King’s inner workings, warts and all. The rewrite seemed bland, washed out, weighed down by the b.s. that would dominate his later writing.
I worry that rewriting some of my original posts would do the same thing: strip out the hints of what was to come in favor of something more professional but less personally reflective.
Plus, rewriting is dangerous: It can become a habit you never break. Just ask George Lucas: every re-release of a Star Wars film is always crappier than the last, and apparently none have satisfied Lucas (let alone the fans) enough to get him to stop. That’s when rewriting basically becomes an addiction.
So for the sake of my own professional development, my time and perhaps my sanity, the older content of Goose’s Gabs will stay as is: sometimes strong, sometimes weak, and usually pretty raw.
I just hope that if any editors read it, they understand they’re what was, not what is.