Friday, May 2, 2014

Depth of Experience in Writing

It has been said you can't really write anything until your 40's. I remember hearing this information and thinking, "Ack! I'm 20 ... that is a long ways down the road." How do you define or describe how inexperience influences writing? The essence in the knowledge of really knowing something or having a frame of reference from which to draw knowledge deepens your ability to write about it. Writing about visiting another country without ever having visited that country is not the same. You can research it and write about it, but can you really describe it -- the exact smells, the people, the places, the cracks in the sidewalk ...

For young writers this news might be disheartening. You might be like I was at age 20 and think that is a long ways off ... so my best advice, stick with what you know and can relate to. When you're 16 and attempt to write about being 40 and getting a divorce because of your midlife crisis, it will show in the work. Something is just ... missing. Defining the essence of what is missing from inexperience is like trying to write about a country you've never visited. A depth and level of experience and firsthand knowledge is missing. As a reader you can almost feel a palpable difference.

The good news is we all age and gain experience. As you gain life's treasured experiences it will round out your writing and give you that intimate sense knowledge. You have been there and done that -- and you know in your heart how it really feels. You are not guessing based on observations of human behavior. You know because you understand and sympathize or empathize. Young writers should focus on young adult themes that will make their material resonate with common knowledge shared among their peers. But I would never recommend a 16-year-old writing about a 40-year-old's midlife crisis and divorce. For those of us who have gone through those very real issues, it will smack of what I just said ... something is missing in the work -- real experience and intimate knowledge. Now writing about divorce from a 16-year-olds point of view would work.

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