Reader Friday: How Wise Must You Be to Write Well?

“Anyone who is going to be a writer knows enough at fifteen to write several novels.” 

         – May Sarton

Agree or disagree?

This entry was posted in Reader Friday by Joe Moore. Bookmark the permalink.

About Joe Moore


18 thoughts on “Reader Friday: How Wise Must You Be to Write Well?

  1. I guess I’d make a distinction between being smart and being wise. Smart is knowing a lot of facts. Wise is knowing what those facts mean. Being wise seems to be almost at the heart of what writing is about. Being smart is just research, or today, having access to Google.

  2. Perhaps WRITE several novels, but several GOOD ones? Or even one?
    Heck, I’m way past that age (according to my drivers license), and I’m STILL trying…

    • Hey George if you older guys up North would stop peeing in the Hootch then us older guys down in South Alabama who live on the Hootch could get more done

    • I’ll pass the request along~ I’m on a well and a septic system my own self the outhouse burned down when the still blew up…

  3. At fifteen, I knew my grammar. At fifteen, I could spell and had a decent grasp of the language.

    I hear her saying that’s all it takes. That, and the wisdom to realize that if that’s all it takes, I need to get off my butt and get to work.

    Oh! By the way, guess what I wrote yesterday? An outline! *hehe*

  4. I was writing at fifteen, and I thought it was good. I’ll never know if it was because no one ever saw it. What I lacked was self-confidence. What I had in abundance, was self-doubt (am I saying the same thing, twice? I’ll have to ponder).

    What I do know, is I now have the hide for it. Criticism at fifteen would have ruined me, maybe for life.

    • Oh Amanda, your thoughts about criticism that comes too early being crushing reminds me of a friend of mine. In college, she was by far the best writer I knew. She won awards, and seemed destined to become a notable talent. Some stupid professor lashed out at one of her stories, ridiculing it and her. She was completely crushed, and gave up writing. She was, as you said, ruined for life. So sad.

  5. I think “knowing enough” is not synonymous with wisdom. By 15, one has accumulated a lot of experience and emotional knowledge which could be translated into novels. Actually doing that translation, however, takes talent, dedication, and craft. A different skill set.

  6. At fifteen I probably could’ve written several novels of the type of self-published “while not quite ready but was in a hurry to put it out to the world because I write like a fifteen-year-old who thinks he doesn’t need an editor or proofers, or critique” works that shows up on Amazonon a daily basis.

    In other words the stories were all there, or at least seeds of story telling had been sown, but the heads of grain had not fully ripened in the stalk. While seeds are edible they’re not the same as a loaf of bread.

    I think it took the wisdom of my forties to really encapsulate the stories of my teens.

    • Well said. And by the way, great job narrating Fiction Attack for JSB! I got clear to the end before I realized it was you!

      I loved all your impressions. They made a truly helpful book that much more fun to listen too!

  7. J.B. good point. It never fails to amaze me when someone brings up the where did you get your ideas thing in workshops. I should be lucky enough to live long enough to complete just the ones already in my head. It would help if the few still in smoothing draft form would quit changing words and descriptions.

  8. When I was a senior in high school, I wrote a few pieces that I thought were insightful, witty, and strong. I read them to my dad who was a librarian with a master’s in English. He was a writer. (Actually, I realize now, he was more a learning writer than a published writer.)

    Dad trashed my pieces.

    Then I had a college freshman English instructor who told me I had the gift of gab.

    Do you know what stood between me and the me being a published writer and novelist? My dad’s words. I was not a good writer according to the standards of an English teacher. Years later, I re-read those pieces that I wrote. They were good. They were a little insightful, and they were obviously part of a larger work. I was no savant. But I could write.

    With that as a background, I have had an interesting thing happen to me. My 10-year-old grandson came to me and said he wanted to write a novel. I have encouraged him as much as I can without pushing him. Can he write a publishable novel within the next few years?

    I don’t know. But he has read and re-read the novel of a high school sophomore than he and his parents and sisters met at a homeschooling convention–by the way, the sophomore is a little older than 15.

    Her’s is a good novel, and it possesses wisdom.

    Can kids write good novels? Some can. All of them ought to try. They ought to try and not show their work to their parents or their English teachers until they are finished with their book. Then they should get permission from their parents to show their work to a fiction writer. Or a wise English teacher, one who knows that English prose or poetry is more than the proper use of grammar and other rules.

    Who knows what world kids writing novels can conquer? We can encourage them to try. How can writers do this?

    Make themselves available to speak to junior high and high school English classes. Offer to teach courses on writing in local churches, city or county self-improvement courses, or other appropriate venues. (Alas, the way things are these days, I don’t think writers should take on young students in one-one-one mentorship arrangements.)

    Sometimes, the novels of 15-year-olds can be pried out of them. It’s wonderful when they are.

  9. I disagree. I’m a believer that wisdom comes with age and life experiences–the good, bad, and the ugly contribute to our writing. Some 15 year olds may have an early ability but for most writers, the more you’ve seen, learned andexperienced cannot help but bring more depth to writing. My opinion-Frances at pen and patience.

  10. I it’s been said, it depends on the 15-year-old. At every age, we have different stories to tell, some more insightful and witty than the others.

  11. Hulloo,

    This is Berthold, youngest of the four Leprechaun brothers that live in Basil’s crawlspace, in case we’ve not met before.

    Basil has offed to the land of grassy green dreams and since he left his computer on, and and since i was just finishing off the last bits of Grandda’s Speshul Medsin after my brothers went to bed, I wanted to have a say here too, since this is relevant in a way that is much deeper than Mr. JSB et al may realize.

    The average life span of a Leprechaun is along the lines of 450 years and then some, give or take, while humans manage to survive on average about 85 years or so. That said, the equivalent mental, physical, psychological age of fifteen for a human of normal humanosically geneticated perfluity, being approximately 17% of the expected 85 years of lifespan, would be about the same as we Leprechauns would experience at very young age of 93 or something about that range. Therefore since my brothers and I range in age from 46 to 84 human years that would put us in the human equivalent age range of 7-12 years old. And since we have all got tonnes of stories that flow like milk and honey from our lips I have no problem believing that we could have more than enough stories to tell from a human perspecti….er…prospect…uh….presprocter….

    ….. erm …

    what was the question?


Comments are closed.