Prepare to have your feelings stepped on, kids.
I just learned one of the people I pitched to is 20 years old. She’s can’t even drink legally. I didn’t know shit when I was 20. Didn’t start writing ‘til I was 32. I feel old.
You ARE old – compared to a teenager. I’m 52. When I was 16 I thought 35 was pretty old. I KNEW 50 was over the hill. Compared to me, you’re a baby. Now I look around and wonder who all the old geezers are, cos 50 ain’t old. I look at 70 year olds and think they’re pretty old, but 80 is effing old.
32, 35 – meh.
Besides, it’s not the years, it’s the miles. I’ve seen and done things those 20 year old pointdexters would only see in video games or youtube clips.
You know what kind of mediocre crap you’d have been writing when you were 20? The kind of mediocre crap any 20 year old would write. Timid shit that’s trying to be impressive.
Hemingway. King. Twain – didn’t do their great works until they were older than that. There’s a reason.
20 year olds lack perspective – and don’t know they lack it.
But let’s say a prodigy wrote something great at age 5. How does that affect you as a writer? It doesn’t. Why is your writing better or worse because of theirs? It isn’t. Salieri was always Salieri; Mozart was always Mozart.
That said, I want to learn from masters regardless of their age.
Being a master typically comes with life experience.
Don’t tell me about the glories of sex if you’re a virgin.
Don’t tell me about the pain of the loss of a child when you’ve never had one.
You’ve had your heart kinda broken at 20 and gotten scared when you stayed out late, not had to visit a dying friend in the hospital. You don’t know stuff and you couldn’t express it to others if you did – and if you could, we’d all listen. But you can’t.
Twain 41 Tom Sawyer
Hemingway 53 Old Man And The Sea
Salinger 32 Catcher In The Rye
King 27 Carrie
I’m not seeing a lot of 20 year olds…
(And we can all agree that Carrie as not a masterwork.)
Shakespeare: 29 for Romeo and Juliet – which ends in a suicide pact back when the life expectancy was around 50.
But maybe I’m wrong. So I googled it. 20 year old authors. They exist, but very few.
Here’s a good YahooAnswers answer as to why:
“the reason that most people don’t get published at 20 isn’t because publishers don’t take 20 year olds seriously – it’s simply that most 20 year olds don’t write very good books. There are few 20 year old authors for the same reason that there are few 20 year olds conducting symphony orchestras or directing Hollywood blockbusters.”
I agree. Talent usually takes time.
The exceptions stand out in every media. Mozart. Spielberg, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein, at age 17). The big difference is actors, because we want young good looking stars.
I will say this.
Truth is a powerful thing. People know it when they see it. Whatever your age, young or old, if you can write with truth and honesty it will be interesting and compelling. Just getting older doesn’t make you better; getting better makes you better. That is possible at any age.
Talking to my 5 year old daughter makes me appreciate things from her vantage point. That makes a difference. There’s an innocence to her thoughts, a wonderment in her ideas. She’s a master at that. Because truth.
And I want to learn from masters regardless of their age. So do you.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.