Andrew Solomon, who is a well decorated and popular author, gave a speech at this year’s Whiting Writers’ Awards. After, it was adapted into an article in The New Yorker. The article really made me stop and think about why we write and some important creative concepts to remember when you are writing, especially for young or new writers.
Solomon tracked the thinking of Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” It describes the writing process the way many of us have heard it before: don’t dive too deep into literary criticism, learn the value of asking questions, use your own experiences to write, embrace any urgency you feel to write, and accept challenges. Writing is a process in which the writer grows- don’t rush it, have patience, and just breathe.
This is all very good advice (much of which I follow myself), but I am most interested in Solomon’s view on the left part of the “middle”, the benefits and pitfalls of a younger or newer writer. Solomon makes a very astute observation that all old people have been young, but no young people have been old. It’s true that every young person wants to be mature enough to have success in their respective industry and every older person wants to be physically young again, to have the absolute freedom they once had. He suggests that both age groups think they are “experts” or know everything there is to know. But, neither is correct. Each stage of life has something the other stage does not. When you are young, you have an eagerness filled with energy. When you are older, you have your maturity and patience. The paradox Solomon suggests is that young people, who can afford to be temporarily patient with their creativity, are typically impatient. While older people, who don’t have as much time to be patient, are much more likely to be creatively patient.
What I take away from Solomon’s message is that it is important for young people to be patient with their work. Let it develop and ripen. Your creativity will flourish, but it may take some time. Don’t stress out about it, don’t obsess over it because as a young writer you have one of the best advantages- time.
This article is undeniably thought provoking to me for many more reasons than one. I could honestly sit here all night writing about it, but it really puts the concept of time and creativity into a new light. Older authors should not feel defeated by time because their creativity has already ripened.Older individuals who may have just started writing, should not feel defeated by time either because their life experiences have had time to ripen. Both must use their ripe creativity or ripe experiences to their advantage and foster that young eagerness they once had inside their now mature mind.
My best advice for young writers is if you have an idea write it down. If you have another idea, write that down too. Don’t let any idea, good or bad, completely escape you. Every idea or emotion you have is a piece of the process. Take the time you have right now to think about your ideas. Let them ripen, let them ferment- both in your mind and on paper. Write on.