Column: ‘Listen to Thy Younger Self’ – See What She/He Has to Say

As a blogger, I have 100,000 words or more I can call up anytime and be pleased or repulsed by. Twitter also allows its users to download their past tweets. Home movies, appearances on television shows, even news features exist for many people as remnants of the past and opportunities to learn from.

damien_riley_raybans_bw200Damien Riley is a blogger and podcaster who writes a column at once a week. He has an MA in English  from California State University, Fullerton, he married a princess (now his queen) and together they have 3 children.

How cool would it be to sit and have coffee with your younger self? Imagine it is you 10, 20, or 30 years ago. I just tweeted how I was watching Looper with Bruce Willis and it was the part where he was talking with Joshua Gordon Leavitt, his younger self, in a diner. That’s a trippy scene! What was weirder was that I had just been looking over some tweets from 2007 out by the pool and some of the stuff I tweeted them was just fascinating. I don’t mean I was witty or profound, but rather ignorant about so many things that have happened in the 10 years since I tweeted those. Twitter offers you the ability to download your Tweet archive. If you’ve been on Twitter awhile, you might want to check it out, the link gives you clear instructions how. There is even a string of Tweets when I give narration as I’m waiting for my youngest daughter to be born. I showed them to her but she just wanted me to make her a morning cafe mocha. Kids. She’s now 9.

I’m giving a couple examples of looking at the past because I think we can really benefit by doing so. As bloggers, artists, podcasters, people in relationships trying to be better, and so many other walks of life. As I said, I cringed at how ignorant I seemed in some of my ten-year old tweets. Plus, I watched in Looper how frustrated Bruce Willis’ character became with Joshua Gordon Leavitt’s character (in truth they are the same character just different ages). I can imagine, based on the tweets and the older blog posts of mine that I read now, that I would be extremely frustrated with my old self. I wonder if my old self would listen? Leavitt’s character certainly doesn’t and he nearly kills his older self. Strange. It’s just a movie but I try to look for the parallels to life in movies and this one has a huge application.

There is one thing I now for sure after reading my old words: Most of them are going to look stupid after some time has passed. If I could just know the cool factors of tomorrow I could write words that stood up over time. Looking back at my blog archives I can tell you in all humility that most of my grand-stated columns I’ve written since 2005 are crap lol. Out of 3,000 I think no more than 30 would be worth re-blogging aka repurposing. One of the benefits to being brave and looking at my own words of the past is that I can decide what types of things are going to be timeless. The human journey is worth tying in to any published work. I find the stuff I wrote with that theme still stands up.

Old fashioned values are also worth mentioning. I’m not saying you can’t say fuck once in a while, that’s human for sure and I just said the common human journey stuff is solid gold. I’m talking about referencing other people when you talk, being kid in your speech at a very core level. Having an argument should never drive you crazy in print. Rather, it should show your knowledge of the opposing side and, if you will, respect thereof. So what would you tell your younger self? What is the good advice? Could you give her/him “the goods” to avoid some of the trouble you’ve encountered in life? Having kids is kind of like that. My son is enrolled in his first semester of full-time college (I can’t believe I’m old enough for that to be true) and he took less that full-time. It wasn’t his intention, he just ended up 1 unit short of a full load. Since I recall how important it is to carry a full load for financial aid and healthcare etc. I urged him to take another class. Now Why should I care? I have a busy professional job and I’m not going to benefit. I suppose I see him as that younger self and I want to help him forward.

That brings up my final point. Should we care about our younger self? I think so. After all, logically the self that started writing this post in a Starbucks is now my “younger self.” If I see he wrote something out of sorts or that could be improved upon, should I neglect to proof him? That would be lazy (I am so guilty of that on a daily basis but I try). I think the hard thing is not improving our younger self’s words but rather the hard thing is simply finding the courage to rate and correct ourselves. We want to be cool then, now, and in the future but that rarely happens for anybody. Ok, it happens for Anthony Hopkins but no one else (tongue in cheek). There is always room for improvement. I hope I am always willing to look at my stuff with an editor’s eye. When people who I love and can’t live without tell me constructive criticisms, I need to avoid the urge to be defensive and thank them for helping me become a better husband, dad, friend, writer, blogger, podcaster, teacher, etc. That’s a tough thing to swallow but if I can be “ok” doing it, the product coming out of me will be better and more universal in scope thereby making more people “into” it (in theory). Beyond the product, looking at myself with an objective eye makes me a better member of the human race and tat should be something we all hope for. Success is a “perspective thing.” I heard Rob Schneider say he was successful but not as successful as Jerry Seinfeld. That’s a question of perspective. If you’re proud of what you do and people want to read it etc., I think that’s a high level of success, from my perspective.

Remember that scene in Looper, check out your Twitter archive, or Facebook even. Look at yourself constructively, I think the positive results will astound you. Be patient as you look at yourself though, the improved product may not always be instant. I guarantee you it will be though.

I’m linking to WordPress’ Daily Post word of the day for schmoozing.


Why I Write


I think the reason I write is to get better at solving problems. Research says that people who write well are excellent problem solvers. Journaling research in particular shows that writing can help the writer cope with trauma. My wife is an MFT and she often uses journal therapy for her patients. Why? Because it works, both in research and in the real world where she works with real people. As an educator, I teach my students how to take on writing prompts quite often all year long. I give them tricks and ways to organize their thoughts but ultimately, the highest grades go to the students who can process an abstract concept by making it concrete in writing.

As an avid blogger, I must admit I am always hoping for people to read my work. Sometimes it happens and others it doesn’t. I have to spend a large amount of time networking (shmoozing) as you see I am doing at the bottom of this post but without something to sell to people, I am just a diarist keeping his thoughts in a book under the bed.

You can’t just let them come to you in blogging, you have to become an expert marketer of your work to get readers, especially if you ever hope to make any money at it.

That leads me to my final thought: content. Am I here for myself or for others. I think I have to be honest and say myself. This makes networking and marketing very difficult. I think some bloggers have an evolved mindset that allows them to write their own way, solving their own issues and growing as bloggers while bringing readers to the theater, for lack of a better word.

Content on a blog can really never be 100% for others. If they come to you, you shouldn’t serve them. So what’s the solution? Don’t get caught up in misplaced focus. This is somewhere in the middle of writing for yourself and keeping a lighthouse, so to speak, for the value of other people. I could write more on this but I am afraid the simple cop-out of “both are true” answers the question: “Do I write for them or myself?” If we say 100% ourselves, we WILL see our follower count decline rapidly.

So, there’s my take on it. Why do you write? Please feel free to take part in the memes below.

I used the writing prompt from: Everyday Gyaan as part of #mondaymusings

I’m also linking to the Daily Post one word prompt: misplaced