Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Battle Against Youth

Let's just be blunt: Writing is hard.  So is life.  And so is being young.

Doubt.  Insecurity.  Too few years.  Burning, unbridled ambition.  Unequaled potential.  These are the core elements of a young writer.  Writers live in an expanse of nothingness, hindered not by boundaries or walls.  Young people live in a world of extremes.  The two often do not agree, and are often at war inside our brains.

Young writers, say, under the age of 25, have a whole different perpective of the nothingness before them that is the creative void.  Populating that void are the shadows of every writer and successful person they've ever admired, hated, aspired to be.  They hover like Godzilla over the streets of our minds, every glance a judgement and every motion a challenge.  Most young people feel oppressed by what we believe are dictators over our writing, the shadows of everything that isn't us.  I went through that phase myself (I promise, I'll say something about my age later). 

Without the wisdom that years of trying and failing and succeeding over and over again into infinity brings, a lot of young writers have trouble accepting their inexperience.  We want to be older.  We want to believe that we're as good as the greats, while secretly knowing we're not.  It's a battle, and not one that a sword or laser beam shooting dinosaurs can fix.  Hard to believe, but it's true.

Aside from all of the personal doubts and insecurities housed by our young minds, there is enemy that is the outside world, the vast network of writers and authors and storytellers who make it all look so damn easy.  And they're all better than us, or worse, we think we're better than them.  We're stuck thinking that we have to fight so hard to be heard, and that the vigor of our battling will make up for the years we lack.

The truth is, there are extra battles to fight.  There are more monsters to slay, more monkeys to cage.  Not only are young writers fighting against the other 99%, most of whom are older, wiser, more knowledgable about the world, we're fighting against ourselves.  Often, we don't know any other way to fight than to press on and hope the years reward us with the tools needed to craft a story the 'proper' way.

That went off on a tangent.  I apologize.  The point is, writing is hard for everyone.  Learning to love and accept the battles, learning which Vorpal Sword of Shattering works best against the looming bestsellers of the great artists is all part of the process, no matter how old you are.  But as a young writer, we're not going in with the Vorpal Sword of Doorstopper Destroying.  We're going in with sticks and paper hats, afraid of the enemy but sure that we can win.  Without the support of those older and wiser than us, we would surely lose the battle

Now, I promised I would write about my age.  At the tender age of only two and twenty, I feel as I've lived for a thousand years.  As my grandmother would say, I'm an 'old soul'.  I've been through the battles.  I've slain the demons and Grendel-beasts.  At times, I've thought about putting up the sword and pursuing a safer, easier path of life.  That's not who I am.  I have many, many more battles and beasts to overcome, and just as many stories to tell.

So carry on, penbearers.  Help the young, conspire with the old(er), support each other.  Send dinosaurs armed with AK-47s at all of your insecurities and fears and misguided beliefs about being too young or too old or too this or that to tell a story and tell them, in a strong, passionate voice: "Shoot to kill."

(I rewrote this post somewhere around four times.  Trying to put into words something that is hard to pin down is...well, hard to pin down.  One day, I may revisit the topic.)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting topic. As a writer who battled those same demons and delayed any 'real' writing until my 40s let me just say:

    Choke 'em if they can't take a f**K!

    Seriously! Our demons change clothes, but they stay with us. When I was young, my demons wore the clothes of the elders, the best-sellers, the greats. Now, my demons wear the clothes of the young, the in-touch, the current.

    The good news is our demons are categorically incapable of wearing the one visage that could stop me - my story fully realized in someone else's voice. I adore Judy Blume: she could not write my story. I idolize Shakespeare: he wouldn't have a clue as to the motivations of my characters. Chuck Palahniuk? Too course. Margaret Atwood? Too fine. The ONLY person who can realize my story is me.

    Once I made that realization - nothing could stop me from writing!