1. You can see where you’ve improved as well as where you need to improve. Your old writings are like a progress chart for you. When I decided to read an old novel of mine, I finally realized how many adverbs I use. After my crit partner pointed that fact out to me, I saw that the overwhelming number declined in my more recent writing.
Seeing my writing style and voice, but through words that I’d mostly forgotten, helped me see my writing in a new light. I could laugh at mistakes in my old writing that I couldn’t in my current projects, so it was a learning experience that I could apply from then on.
2. Ideas that you scrapped at one point might be useful to you now. I harvest ideas from my old written horrors all the time. As a nine, ten, and eleven year old, I had boundless imagination, even if my skills in plotting and structure didn’t exist.
While a lot of the stuff I wrote was straight from a book I’d read, some of the ideas were actually pretty good. Now that I better know how to build a story, I can put those bits of genius from my younger years to good use.
3. It can be one of the most fun parts of being a writer. I came upon a short story I’d written when I was thirteen or so. With nothing else to do, I started reading. Five minutes later, I was rolling on the ground laughing harder than I ever had at anything.
The story was hilarious, not because it was meant to be, but because my childlike narration and happily oblivious mistakes were hysterical. I probably should have been embarrassed to death by it, but I couldn’t be, because it was just that funny.
Yeah, old writings can really suck.
But as long as you’re willing to laugh at and learn from old mistakes, they can be the most valuable thing you have.