Thursday, January 26, 2012

Old people can't write?

Normally this is the sort of linking I would do on Twitter or Google+, but since this is pretty insanely perspicacious, since it hints at dark inklings that pretty much every writer will reject as abomination, since it is written by someone who seems vastly more fannish than myself and hence has more source material and provides new perspective, since it falls into the general mentality of the science-of-writing or "craft"-oriented thinking about writing and yet directly opposes the spiritual modus operandi of those who think about writing as a discrete set of operations that lead to artistic success, since it's generally scary and depressing and worth thinking about not only in regards to writing but all artistic and productive forms, I'm linking to it here: Scott Taylor's article at Black Gate, "The Age of Perfect Creation:"

"Writers have a window of 'perfect' production, and although it's much more forgiving than the 4 years of an athlete, it still exists. I mean, there's a reason you know famous works by authors and yet don't know what they’ve done in the past 20 years of their lives until their obituary is plastered all over the internet."

Personally, I don't doubt it. I can think of even more examples than Taylor offers. But, man... what a terrible thing to suggest. What a terrible thing to think, to know, not only as a reader, but - perhaps more importantly - as a writer.

Any thoughts, Internet?

-bn

1 comment:

  1. This doesn't seem controversial to me. It's true for everyone. After a certain age, there is a good chance that your mental skills will start to fade.

    However, I am not sure that this means (as this author seems to imply) that old authors should stop writing. For one thing, this might not happen to you. Some authors produce their best work at extreme age. I think Saul Bellow's last work, Ravelstein (published at age 87) is his best. Sophocles is also said to have written his Oedipus cycle when he was in his eighties.

    Also, even if your mental abilities have peaked, that doesn't mean you can't still produce good work. Writing is not all about swiftness. It's also about experience and emotion and all kinds of other intangible things. Also, to a certain extent, practice and hard work make up for mental deficits. In short, as you get older you might learn things that--when combined with techniques that you developed as a younger, more talented person--help you produce superior novels (I'd say this is what happened with Ravelstein, probably).

    Finally, even if your later novels are recognizably less good than your earlier ones, that doesn't mean that they don't deserve to exist. An author's later novels are often still valued by the author's fans, who've come to enjoy a certain style--a certain pleasure--that only this author, and no one else in the entire world, is capable of delivering.

    Finally, even if an author's later work is less good it still might be interesting. It might contain hints and glimmers of innovation that a more mentally alert mind would've fully developed, but instead have been left behind, like gold-bearing ore, to be mined out by readers, and perhaps, to be fully developed by later writers. Or its flaws might highlight some strength that had been obscured, in previous books, by the overall sheen.

    Also, I think some writers might not have become worse, it's just that their later books happen to be bad. With Martin, it could be that he's simply trapped in this morass of a series. It takes more skill to make the fifth book of a series work than it does to make the first book work.

    And (for the second time) finally, some fans would say that Martin hit his peak before Game of Thrones, and that his first big fat fantasy was a dramatic departure from the sleek science fiction novels and short stories that had won him fame during the 80s.

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