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Outgrowing Favorite Books: A Novel Transformation

This past week, I reread a favorite book for the first time in ten years. This is always an enlightening experience for me, not just because I get to revisit the story or the author’s ideas, but because often, my initial thoughts on the book are preserved in the book itself.


I am unsure whether this condition has a name, but I compulsively write in books. Underlining (often emphatically), marginal comments, dialoguing and often getting angry with the author—all that jazz. Most of the books I own, my Bible included, are a total mess.


I must do this. It is not up for debate. If I can’t write in books, I become antsy and am just incapable of enjoying the experience. This is why I usually buy more books than I check out of the library. Having a time frame on my reading AND not being able to write in the books causes a lot of issues for me that I’d rather just not have as part of that aspect of my life.


Anyway. When I opened my copy of this book for the first time in a decade, I saw my original notes in black pen. My handwriting hasn’t changed all that much—in fact, I deliberately used a different color pen for this reading to differentiate when my comments were written.


What had changed, though, was how I saw the book.


I’ll withhold the name and author because it’s irrelevant to this discussion, but for context’s sake, I’ll share that it was a work of nonfiction that focuses on an important area in my life. When I first read it, I found it to be a source of encouragement that was refreshing compared to the other dialogue on the topic that was going on in my life at the time.


Many people made me feel condemned, but this author reassured me that despite their loud voices, I was okay.


That all changed when I read it this time.


Instead of underlining and starring key passages, I instead was writing questions in the margins, including a few well-placed notations of “WHY??”, “What the crap??”, and “???????”


Over the last ten years, my views on this matter have changed so much that most of this book is no longer relevant to my life.


This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. I’ve discovered new authors that have been much more influential to my writing than the works that first inspired me to write. Although I’m generally not an advocate of “canceling” authors, I’ve even removed a couple from my list of influences because I’ve discovered ethical or moral concerns about particular books that no longer sit well with me.


So, what about you? Have you ever found yourself revisiting a book that used to be your favorite, only to realize that it no longer resonates with you the way it once did? This experience of outgrowing books is a common one, and it can be a powerful indicator of your growth as a writer and as a person that can also be useful in defining the kind of reader and writer you want to become.


Embracing Change


We have to start with the fact that, as with any area in life, you are going to evolve as a reader and writer. Any change involves accepting a need to let go, which can be both painful and insightful.


When we notice that we've outgrown books that once held significant meaning, it's a clear sign that we're undergoing personal and creative growth. Although this moment might feel unsettling, it invites us to embrace new possibilities in our writing journey.


Recognizing and accepting that our tastes and interests have evolved opens the door to exploring fresh ideas, stories, and genres that align more closely with who we are now. This willingness to let go of what no longer resonates with us enriches our personal growth and broadens our horizons as writers.


As we move forward, it's essential to view the process of outgrowing books not as losing old favorites but as gaining the opportunity to discover and create work that reflects our current selves. Adopting this perspective opens doors to thriving and finding fulfillment in our ever-evolving writing path.


Reflecting on the Past, Defining Your Future


When you notice growth in this area, it's important to think about the books you've outgrown and ask yourself why they no longer connect with you as they once did. This introspection isn't about dwelling on the past but understanding the progression of your interests and values.


It's also not just about recognizing the shift in your literary preferences. Perhaps more importantly, it’s about how this shift influences the stories you're now eager to tell.


Dive deep into your past experiences as a reader and a writer to uncover the themes, characters, and narratives that captivate you today. This reflective process is essential for setting a clear direction for future writing endeavors. It helps you crystallize your current creative aspirations and pinpoint the types of stories you feel compelled to explore now.


This is a crucial step in redefining your writing identity and ensuring that your future projects are aligned with where you are now as a creative individual. It’s an important opportunity to gather inspiration and to pave a path forward that excites you, filled with stories that you are passionate about bringing to life.


Learning from What No Longer Serves You


Realizing that a book that once felt like an integral part of your identity no longer fits can be a significant moment of recognition in your journey as both a reader and a writer. Every book that you have connected with has contributed to your development, leaving imprints that shape your approach to storytelling and writing.


Use this moment to reflect on the elements within these works that no longer align with your current self. What themes, character dynamics, or narratives have lost their luster for you? Understanding these aspects provides valuable insights into your personal and creative growth, guiding your future writing endeavors.


Learning from what no longer serves you is not about discarding your past but acknowledging and appreciating how your literary journey has informed your present. It's an invitation to forge ahead, informed by your past but not tethered to it, ready to explore new literary landscapes that more strongly resonate with who you are now.


Cultivating Your Developing Writing Identity


Navigating the journey of outgrowing books brings you to a pivotal stage: cultivating your ever-growing identity as a creative person. This phase is an exploration, a time to dive into genres and narrative styles you haven't explored before or perhaps didn't consider aligning with your past self.


It's about allowing your current interests, values, and experiences to guide you toward new realms of storytelling that spark excitement and creativity within you. Experimentation is key here. Try writing from different perspectives or dabbling in themes that challenge you intellectually and emotionally. See this as a chance to redefine what storytelling means to you now without the constraints of your previous preferences.


This process is not about erasing your past influences but building upon them, incorporating the lessons learned and the growth experienced into your work. By doing so, you're honoring your journey and enriching your craft with the depth and authenticity that come from this process of self-analysis.


Be Encouraged by Literary Introspection


I know all this sounds rather daunting. After all, who likes change? However, viewing this process as a positive step towards discovering and embracing your authentic writing voice is crucial to moving forward.


If your writing style and tastes remained static for your entire life, this would be a sign of dysfunction. However, the need to let go of influences and even write projects that no longer serve you proves that you are moving toward being the best author you can be.


As you progress, allow yourself the freedom to explore new literary territories without hesitation. Your curiosity and willingness to experiment are your greatest assets as you seek out the stories that resonate better with you now.


Remember, it's natural for your interests and writing to change. This journey is about uncovering the narrative possibilities that excite you today, guided by the insights gained from the books and experiences of your past. Keep an open heart and mind, and approach your writing with confidence and a spirit of exploration.


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