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Better with Age?

Last week’s New York Times featured an article that I absolutely loved, a piece by musician and author Edward Kelsey Moore on making his fiction debut at age 52.   I’m always a little surprised at the way in which the media treats serious writers who produce their first works well past thirty (a literary debut at 52! Imagine that!) As if debut works should be written by actual debutantes.

I suspect that someone, somewhere has actually studied this, but by my unscientific reckoning, it seems to me that good writing gets better with age.  Sure there are plenty of literary wunderkind, from John Keats to Jonathan Safran Foer, but to steal a line from Wordsworth (who was himself obsessed with the dimming of his genius as he grew older)  I think it makes sense that folks who have an ear for “the still, sad music of humanity,” those who call upon decades of observation and experience in their work, who have perhaps been writing for years while pursuing other careers or raising families, should wish to write—and, amazingly enough–write well. Moore’s whole essay is worth reading, but at risk of ruining the punchline, I’ll include his final lines:

 

So, these days, the question “Aren’t you too old for this?” brings to mind a list of things that I’m definitely too old for. But I answer, “No, at 52, I’m not too old to be a debut novelist. But, luckily, I’m way too old to be the writer, musician or man I was at 30.”

 

How does your age inform your writing? Do you feel like you are coming into your own voice?

3 Responses to Better with Age?

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    This is a tough one…There are such things as gifted prodigies in all fields who do amazing things at an early age, and often as not end up in an early grave even without burning their candle at both ends, (Karen Carpenter comes to mind; who knows what kind of children’s books she might have written if she’d stuck around?)and there are also (at least in YA) a fair amount of only slightly competent writers and etc. who are wildly acclaimed because they’re young and photogenic, usually by a well-orchestrated PR machine. Being a boomer has given me a mucher deeper pop-culture pool and literary library to swim in which makes my writing a lot more entertaining and harder to get out a reader’s head, but I doubt if anyone would have found me even vaguely interesting at the age of 15 without the aforementioned PR machine…

  2. D.C. DaCosta says:

    I don’t see why anyone should be surprised.

    Older folks have lived long enough to have:
    – gained some experience of life and their fellow man;
    – developed their powers of observation;
    – gained an insider’s knowledge of particular places or professions…or developed the ability to fake it;
    – observed how plotting and story/character development should work;
    – mastered the art of sentence construction;
    – discovered a message they want to impart.

    With rare exceptions, younger people either have nothing to say, or don’t know how to say it.

    Whippersnappers….

  3. Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa says:

    In my case, it was a matter of getting rid of everything before I could write well. Eyesight’s fading, so scratch drawing. Vocal cords not what they used to be, so scratch singing. But writing? Age gives wisdom; age gives experience; age gives STORIES.

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