Do Old People Write Better?

Should you wait till you’re older to write?

Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash

There was a point in my writing career when I stopped and thought: "Maybe I should wait until I'm older then start writing." It made sense to me, because I would get a lot more experience the more I aged. And good writing comes from mature people. I was nineteen at the time. I waited for two years and picked up the pen again, hoping to not cringe at my writing like I used to. But I was wrong. No matter how much I wrote, I still felt like my writing lacked maturity. Thankfully I didn't stop writing this time, because I came across older writers — in their 30s or 40s — who thought they should wait for a few years to get "wiser" then start jotting down their stories.

In one of my previous stories, I talked about maturity, and how experience, not age, makes us wiser and more mature. In it, I gave the examples of two people to prove my point. One man faced the most ordinary experiences, while the other faced hard ones. Of course, the latter became more mature than the other. Think about it, suppose you had a twin brother and you were separated from him at birth. He grew up in a developed country — a safe environment — went to school, never had to struggle financially, and always felt loved by the people surrounding him.

Meanwhile, you are in a poor part of the world. From the moment you were born, you always lacked resources in life. That's why you were forced to leave school and start working at the age of ten. Aside from that, you were also neglected by everyone, and had to face a lot of bullying from others at work. Your experiences made you into a more mature person than your brother, because out-of-the-ordinary experiences often make us more aware of our surrounding.

Similarly, in writing, it's all about experiences and not age, because there are many writers who have written great masterpieces despite being younger. Before I continue, let's analyze what a mature writing means.

Aside from entertainment, we read books in order to experience joy, sadness, excitement, contentment (from getting knowledge), and fear. Reading is like living another life, as George RR Martin once said:

"A reader lives a thousand lives, while those who don't read live only once."

But to have the most realistic experiences while reading, we need to read those books which have been written by mature writers. Writers who have experienced a variety of feelings, and know how to convey those feelings through words. Mature writing means that the writer is aware of the cause and effect of certain decisions. For him, every action and its reaction must be logical just like real life.

Have you ever felt jealous? What did you do when you got jealous? Did you get angry at the one who made you jealous, or even took action to mitigate it? You can make a good story by making a fictional character go through the same experience, have him think the same thoughts as you, and make him take the same actions, and you have a solid story. The same case with other feelings. The key to writing a mature story is to reflect real life experiences as realistically as possible. But these experiences are not inclusive to only a certain age. You can write about sadness or anger through a child's or teenager's perspective too.

Photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash

Let's look at the Red Wedding in The Game Of Thrones. Robb Stark, a young king, is supposed to marry the daughter of Walter Frey, a cunning old man, who will help Robb defeat his enemies. But since Robb is young and naïve, he decides to break the marriage and marry another girl. This causes Walder Frey to be furious. Meanwhile, Robb's enemies befriend Walder Frey, and urge him to take revenge on Robb for betraying him. So, Walder Frey invites Robb Stark and his men to a wedding, and slaughters them during the feast.

Since The Game Of Thrones is set in the medieval times, this situation perfectly sums up the harsh reality of politics of those times, where alliances were quickly made, and dissolved with slight mistakes. Robb's mistake in breaking the marriage also depicted his lack of experience since he was only a teenager. The writer of the story, George RR Martin, not only knows a lot about medieval history, but he also knows about the human condition. Since his story is about war, no character has plot armor. While some immature writers may have their protagonists fight powerful enemies without getting a scratch, George lets his character thrive or die based on their decisions. George perfectly applies the logical cause and effects in his stories.

You don't need to write about deep philosophical issues, or subjects that only adults know about. If you are a twenty year old, and have had a slightly unusual childhood, you have a lot of material to write about. And I promise, if you execute it correctly, it can be more mature than what some people in their 30s write. Remember, it's all about the experiences, not the age. There are teenagers in the world who have more interesting stories to tell than adults. You don't need to have a rich lifestyle in order to experience life and convey those experiences through writing. Marcel Proust describes this in his masterpiece, In Search Of Lost Time. There, he writes about a certain writer named Bergotte and why he succeeded as a writer:

"Similarly, the men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the sense reflected. The day on which the young Bergotte succeeded in showing to the world of his readers the tasteless household in which he spent his childhood, and the not very amusing conversations between himself and his brothers, was the day on which he rose above his friends of his family, more intellectual and more distinguished than himself."

As I said, there are writers who have written great works despite being young.

Helen Keller.
She wrote the Story Of My Life at the age of 22.

Mary Shelley.
She wrote the famous Frankenstein at the age of 18.

Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Wrote Poor folk at the age of 25. (Many praised his work and some compared him to the legendary Gogol, while some expected great works from this young writer due to his great powers of observation at this age.)

Ernest Hemmingway.
Wrote The Sun Also Rises at the age of 26.

Wrote The Sorrows Of Young Werther at the age of 25. This was at some point the most famous novel in Europe. Even Napoleon praised it. (Goethe wrote this love story after having an affair with a woman.)

Zadie Smith.
Write White Teeth, a bestseller, at the age of 22.

Charles Dickens.
Wrote the wildly successful Pickwick Papers at the age of 24.

W. Somerset Maugham.
Wrote Liza Of Lambeth, a successful book, at the age of 23. This book allowed him to write full-time.

Notice that most of these writers I mentioned are in their 20s and most of them are from the past. These people lived in a harsher world and environment than us, so it is logical to assume that they matured faster. You can still write mature works despite being younger if you write about your experiences as honestly as you can.



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A writer, classical music junkie, and a hermit. I like to write about writing and psychology. If you have a freelance gig for me, email me at faradali520@gmail