The 4 Real Reasons Why You Delete Your Old Drafts

You’re afraid to say what you mean.

Kevin Horton
May 2, 2020 · 5 min read

Writing is more comfortable than we make it seem. Yet we turn an outlet of expression into moments when we’re too critical of ourselves.

Even if you’re a new writer, you know that to be in a “flow” state, you have to let your thoughts and emotions spill over onto the pages. You can’t hold anything back.

It starts with one honest sentence.

We think that to impress ourselves and our readers, our words have to be new. But what if your creativity was kindled, not just from something new but from something old?

Sometimes we see our past work as outdated currents of information when that isn’t the case. You can still make good use of it. I say this with openness because I’ve seen the way it’s transformed my writing sessions.

You begin to see the wealth of ideas in your old drafts. You experience enlightenment from your former words. But the key is to keep everything that you write, no matter how ordinary it seems at the moment.

Your future self will thank you once you get over these mental roadblocks.

1. You don’t see the hidden treasure

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” they say. But what if your trash is your wealth? The truth is, we learn to see the value of our ideas when we let them marinate.

It’s no secret that writers want to hash out story after story without restriction. But many of us aren’t willing to do what it takes to get there.

Don’t be so quick to throw out those scrapbooks.

We frequently become impatient when drafts sit there for days, months, even years. So we delete them. In the process, we throw away diamonds in the rough.

I can’t count how many times I thought about deleting a post because I assumed it was garbage, only to have it published and distributed to hundreds of thousands of readers.

This piece is an example of that:

A friend spoke to me about the topic of relationships. (Okay, we argued about the issue of relationships.) We came to an understanding nearly three hours later. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Honestly, his perspective didn’t sit well with me. It made me pull out my journal and hash out the thoughts in my head. It didn’t take long for the pages to fill up. The next thing I knew, it was all saved as a draft online.

I started feeling those doubts that most of you can relate to — thoughts of whether or not the piece was “top-notch,” “readable,” or “curate-able” material.

But at some point, I got sick of questioning myself and said, “Who cares! I’m just going to send it out.” The next morning, I had so many notifications I didn’t know what to do with myself.

The story sat in my drafts for almost six months. I often think about what would’ve happened had I deleted it. I would never have uncovered the emotional wealth in the story if I didn’t revisit it.

The same could be true of your untold stories.

2. You’re afraid to say what you mean

Progress is the best form of motivation. It causes you to believe that your potential is far higher than the limits you put on yourself. It shows you that action is the only way to improve.

We covet huge gains.

We anticipate a big jump from 10 to 10,000 overnight.

But that’s not how progress works.

Focus on the meaning behind your words instead of the results. That’s what causes us to ignore the numbers and focus on the work itself. You will never get better if you don’t practice your craft. And you will waste your time if you aren’t honest about what you create.

Don’t hate-clap other writers’ work. Make your own. Turn your emotions into words, and keep doing that.

Caring too much about how your words will be perceived is trivial. Say what you have to say, let the readers handle the rest.

Humans respond to what’s real.

Write from a real place, and your words will resonate with your readers.
Write from a superficial place, and you’ll bore them to death.

3. You’re ignoring the process of progress

The hardest part of writing is getting that first sentence out of the way. We may try and strategize our way out of keeping that pen (or cursor) moving because we may not feel like it. But the more we do it, the better we become.

Great writers didn’t become who they are because they said, “Okay, yeah. I guess I’ll write or whatever,” then let their art die. No, they wrote a lot. And there was no instant fame for them.

That’s a sure way to cause yourself to burn out. It sets you up for an unrealistic perspective of improvement.

To get good at anything, it takes time and patience. If you don’t have those, you simply won’t last long. That means you have to look past the numbers and focus on the process of progress.

Sometimes we make the creative process harder than it has to be because we strive for overnight success, rather than going back to our “why.”

Drafts carry that why. Go back to them if you need a creative spark because they keep your momentum steady.

Progress isn’t about speed. It isn’t about overnight success or instant popularity. Instead, improvement without comparison to others should be your driving factor.

Over time, you’ll see that stats are just a byproduct of your resilience and your vulnerability in what you create.

4. You want it to be perfect

With a mindset of perfectionism, we can easily assume what we have is not good enough. We stall and think our words are too short or too long, too soon or too late.

In our periods of hesitation, we develop a habit of doubting ourselves. Either we don’t do anything, or we do too much.

The truth?

Nothing will ever be good enough.

I was afraid to share my most impactful story yet with the world. I fell for the lie that it wasn’t good enough. And I wanted it to be perfect.

But when I chose to throw the added weight of being critical about my writing to the side, that’s when my words hit deep with those who read them.

No one who has ever created anything worthy of recognition was delighted with it. That’s because there are no perfect humans, which means there is no such thing as ideal art.

They have defects just like us. Sure, take a second to read it over and clean it up. But don’t overthink yourself into self-hatred.

Imagine the freedom you’ll have when you accept that reality.

You realize your old work is still valuable, that real impact starts with vulnerability. And you recognize perfection is a false concept that keeps you from progress.

The only thing left for you to do share what you already have.


A better you for a better us.

Kevin Horton

Written by

Believer. Listener. I write for people who realize that life is bigger than themselves. Join my email list here:



HopeTree exists to uncover ways to be a more creative, mindful, and productive community. We’ll discuss the ups and downs of life that form our deepest selves.

Kevin Horton

Written by

Believer. Listener. I write for people who realize that life is bigger than themselves. Join my email list here:



HopeTree exists to uncover ways to be a more creative, mindful, and productive community. We’ll discuss the ups and downs of life that form our deepest selves.

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