does it add up?

A writer friend of mine has said that he came fairly late to writing, in his mid-thirties. He said that the wait has given him years more life experience to draw on in his fiction. He suspects he wouldn’t have had the knowledge or maturity to be good at writing in his twenties.

I think the case is similar with me, though I suspect I barely have the knowledge or maturity to be good at writing despite considerably more years into life than my friend.

I’m consumed by my Fathers and Sons stories, and I don’t mind. They are pretty much all I think about, and I seem to be able to write the first draft of a new one each week. Just this week, I realized I needed a story to fill a gap in the narrative, and a story presented itself to me readily. I’m collecting my thoughts on it, but I expect I’ll begin writing it by the end of the week.

But what are these stories? Are they any good? Are they worth all of the effort and time and frenzy I’m putting into them? I don’t know. I don’t need to know, I suppose. But sometimes I worry that they have no more depth or heft than a pop song. I was driving to my little cabin in the woods a weekend or so ago, and the radio no longer received the Kansas City NPR station, so I surfed the band and landed on some classic rock station that had a strong enough signal. Heart’s “Crazy on You” came on, and the memories of my St. Louis youth flooded in. (Driving to Illinois to get beer, back in the days when you only had to be nineteen to buy it there, every night of the week at my friend’s parents’ basement, drinking beer, playing pool, and arguing over music and other such infinitely important things.) And as the lyrics pounded through the speakers in my little truck, I recognized so much of them in my story “The Lonely Road.” Am I really that much influenced by pop culture? Where is the Moby Dick influence? The Faulkner influence?

But what if my stories really do have no more than the depth and heft of a pop song? People love pop songs. They answer a need, and if my stories could be so loved, I would be gratified. (And wealthy?)

Well, regardless, I have to write the stories I have, whatever their heritage and prospect. But I do wonder where the maturity and experience are? I seem to have missed them. Let me know if you find them, okay?

Explore posts in the same categories: Fathers and Sons, Rants and ruminations

5 Comments on “does it add up?”

  1. I shoot for that maturity, too…but then it always seems to come back to a farting dog. I think every story — even the most literary masterpiece — needs a farting dog somewhere in it!

    What that says about me…is probably much worse than what an influence of pop culture has on you. And in all seriousness, I think the influence of pop culture is the memory of a particular time, so it makes sense that pop culture would trigger those thoughts. Those thoughts are usually literary gold, so even if the messenger seems a bit flat, I’d follow where it take you.

  2. LauraMaylene Says:

    “He suspects he wouldn’t have had the knowledge or maturity to be good at writing in his twenties.”

    This is true of many writers, including those who are considered superstars in their early twenties. I came to writing very early and have always been recognized as having talent, but I sure as hell didn’t have the full perspective/experience in those younger years. I think that’s natural, and it doesn’t mean it’s wrong to get good practice in when you’re young. But ultimately, I don’t think it matters when someone starts to write seriously, whether it’s at age 12 or 72. When you’re ready to really do it, to really get into it — then you’re ready.

    And I would be fairly surprised if your Fathers and Son stories are actually fluff and pop. Your writing is so thoughtful. We aren’t all going to be Faulkner or Melville…and besides, they were of a different time. At the risk of sounding like an after-school special, just be you.

  3. Annam Says:

    I started writing early as well, but it wasn’t until I was a little older that I could see that it takes more than just talent to be a good writer. I am excited for your new collection that is shaping up.

  4. Pete Says:

    Your stories are worth the effort and time and frenzy if you enjoying writing them. Whether or not anyone else likes them, or if they get published, doesn’t really matter. The reason I’ve temporarily set aside my writing is that I really wasn’t enjoying the process. But I suspect my enthusiasm will return eventually.

  5. Averil Dean Says:

    I agree with Laura: it doesn’t matter when you’re ready to write. It happens when it happens. You’re ready now. You’re passionate about your work and rolling right along. That’s enough, more than enough, and you’re still young enough to have many good years of productive work ahead of you.

    (I give myself this same pep talk every time I find another gray hair in the mirror.)

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