Another birthday come and gone…
Technically, I’m not “old” by any stretch of the imagination, and even though my writing is meant for teenagers, I have only just now left their ranks. However, I’m a firm believer in the notion that age is, in fact, just a number. To me, experience is far more important when it comes to maturity and (in a crude sense) value, as far as humanity goes.
A lot of people wonder why there aren’t as many young writers, and why those that exist aren’t as successful as, perhaps, someone who begins writing in their late twenties or later. I think the answer is simple: if writing is, at its core, communication of the human condition, older (and thus more experienced) writers must be naturally better at expressing those truths which people like to read. Success doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with popularity or monetary compensation, either. If I were to boil “success” down to a simplified series of elements, they would be the ability to change a life, broaden a thought, evoke an emotion, or consider a possibility. A writer’s chances of being successful in these ways are directly linked to their experiences in life.
As a young writer, other young writers ask me how they can achieve success in their writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tooting my own horn here, because I don’t believe I’ve reached my full potential for success by any means. I do get asked, though, and here is my answer:
Yes, it really is that simple. Live in whatever way you can! Modern culture has created a sort of archetype of the writer as a hermit and a seclusionist who sits by candle light (or computer light) and furiously hammers out complex sentences between shots of whiskey. Not that we don’t do that sometimes, but the ideas we convey are rooted in real life, more often than not, and real life has to be lived. You don’t need to be old to be experienced, though, so don’t be discouraged…
I’ll give you some personal examples: I spent my childhood being bullied, and that is a truth I can share well because I don’t have to make up those emotions. I spent my teenage years as a delinquent, too, so I can easily pull funny and crazy stories from those years and simply embellish rather than invent. I have never, however, been to a high school prom, and therefore if I ever find my characters at a prom, I will be forced to make it up from start to finish. I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve fallen in love, I’ve been close to a person who has slipped beyond that thin and irreversible veil between life and death… I have a great many experiences I can draw real emotion from and use to breathe life into what are otherwise just words on a page.
In conclusion, my advice to aspiring writers is and always will be to “just live.” Ask that girl to prom. Say “yes” when he does. Stay up late. Read that book. Watch that movie. Go out in the rain. Walk the longer trail. Go out for drinks. Tell the joke. Go on the blind date. Buy the tickets. Take the picture. Step on the gas. Acquiesce, don’t resist.
The things that make great writers great aren’t actually things at all.
Until next time,
Another birthday come and gone…