Sunday, February 04, 2007

Young Writers

You know, I should just learn to take compliments however I can get them.

But I have this issue with the label "young writer." I understand, it's said as a reflection of my age, but it always sounds to me as a presumption of experience.

This "young writer" has been writing for 15 years. The first thing she ever completed was a short story when she was in 10, and a grade 5 teacher asked the class to write a story during their computer time. Green courier words on a black screen, Apple IIEs humming away, then the whirl of the dot matrix printer. En volia, the start of a long and (thus far unpublished) career. In a shoebox somewhere, that first story still rests.

She has three completed "novels" from her early and mid-teens in another "shoebox" somewhere. She has countless other short stories, poems, and unfinished pieces in yet one more. She's got three "novels" from another unfinished series from her late teens and early twenties on her harddrive. None of it is publishable, but it's got the spark. It's got the passion. At each relative point in her career, all of those pieces were deemed good.

Good changes. Good evolves as a writer evolves, as they experience other writers by which to compare and measure their own skills and talents. And good becomes not good enough. We don't want to be good. We want to be great, fantastic, brilliant. That's what we strive for—what we fight and push and work to hear.

Everyone comes into this game at a different stage. Some of us are just now trying their hand at a "novel." Others have been at it for five, ten, maybe even 15–20 years. Some of us knew from the moment we could read anything more complex than "Dick and Jane" this was what we wanted. Some of us realized it much later in life.

So, tell me, writers "young" and "old," what've you got hidden in your shoebox?


Christina Rundle said...

I have so many things hidden in the shoebox, but now it's on a cd-rom that I can easily slide into the back of my closest and forget about.

Rachel said...

I think I have a dead rat in my shoe box, and a few crumbling bits of paper typed on my old Underwood.....

Christopher M. Park said...

I also have the label of "young writer" being thrust upon me. It used to bother me, but lately not so much. Because, as much as I know about writing (10 years of serious writing--I tend not to count the 5 years of little short stories and small "books" that I made before that), I'm still an newbie in the industry. I've never yet had a book actually published, and I've never had any real deadline pressure with my writing.

So, I don't mind the label of "young" in the sense of inexperienced, because in a professional sense it's true. It's not like that means my writing is bad. In the other sense, though, I think this is viewed as a positive comment by those in the industry. "Young" means "potential." As in, we'll be keeping our eye on you to see if you're the next big thing. Everybody is always looking for that, right?

And it's nice to at least be considered in a cursory way, rather than being considered tired and old, and not in the running. I'd much rather be my age (24) and trying to get into this industry than in my forties or even thirties and trying to do it. Seems like the negative stigma goes more that way.

Anyway, you asked what's in our "shoeboxes." Mine has: 24 partially completed novels (some novella length, though not ended), 1 completed novel, about 20 poems (not really my thing), and about 10 short stories (really not my thing). I've spent all my energies on the novels, and OUTSIDE my shoebox I do have something: 1 completed ms, which (the full of) is right now being considered by an agent. Wish me luck!

And good luck to you, too! It looks like the two of us have a pretty similar writing history in many ways (though I'm not one for writer groups, or anything like that--I just discuss these things with my wife, who was a comp lit major and an excellent editor.)

Anyway, I'm pretty new to your blog, but I've been enjoying it.


My blog on writing

c.rooney said...

That's a positive way of looking at it, Chris, and I have to admit that I'm not bothered when I hear it from someone in the industry.

It more makes me sigh when it comes from someone who isn't published and acts like they've "discovered" your talent. ;)

But, yes, best of luck with your manuscript!

Christopher M. Park said...

I'm with you there. I try to tune out the condescending attitude that those who are not in the industry can have. That's a big part of why I don't go to writer's workshops or groups--in my experience, it can be a lot of "the blind leading the blind."

Not to say they have no value--people helping each other learn and grow is great. I just never fit in very well there, for some reason, and so I have more of a negative connotation with the whole thing. But hey, that's just me. I know it works out great for the majority of people (I guess I'm just extra reclusive).