A fellow writer recently asked me whether I thought the following quote from Willa Cather is accurate: Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.
The key word there is “basic.” Yes, your basic knowledge of how to form and punctuate a sentence and organize your ideas is acquired in the early grades.
However, in a broader sense, I disagree strongly with this statement. Good writing requires far more than the knowledge of how to form and punctuate a sentence and organize ideas. Age and experience are tremendous contributors to a writer’s skill and content. I believe that, generally, the older a writer gets, the better they become at their craft. We are all growing and changing and “becoming” as we live, and everything that touches our lives enriches us as writers.
I acquired a lot of college-level creative writing skills in my early twenties when I worked with my mentor for four years. He taught me concepts and principles for developing plots and characters that I never heard mentioned in grade school, and I’ve been improving on what I learned ever since.
I don’t write now the way I wrote 20 years ago. Nor do I currently write the way I will 20 years from now. In fact, I see a vast improvement in my writing skills and style from the release of Dragon’s Fire in 2017 to the writing of Books Six and Seven now.
Even the development of characters is seasoned with age. As a teen, I could not write characters over the age of 23 or male characters with any degree of believability. My outlook on life at that point was too narrow and inexperienced. My characters’ interactions have improved over the years as I gain more to draw on from my own interactions with others of all ages. I anticipate that everything about my writing will only strengthen as I continue to grow, learn, change, and practice.
Life enriches writers; experience molds and shapes them and enables them to tell stories in a richer, more fascinating way. Writers learn for their whole lives, and each learning experience adds a new shade of color or a new element of shadow to their storytelling.
Writing is not like gymnastics where you are finished competitively by the age of twenty. Nor is it like brain surgery where you have to get it right the first time. A good writer must move beyond the basic skills of putting words to paper in a logical order, and age and experience are essential for that. Fifteen is a wondrous age, but if it’s all you have to draw on as a writer, it will never, ever be enough.
Check out my interview with blogger Fiona Mcvie! https://wp.me/p3uv2y-75n