Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Learning How To Be An Author Means Much More Than Reading About How To Write…

Here I am again, out on the limb I’m so used to—sharing what I think

I think learning to write means Way more than reading about how to write. It also means more than just writing every day.

Let’s be clear, writing regularly to hone one’s craft and reading competent authors’ views on the profession definitely have their place in a writer’s growth.


There’s a lot more to learn—about life, about people, and about yourself.

I found a blog post about the average age at debut publication for 29 authors. It’s a shame the blog appeared to die about three years ago

For those authors, the average age of their debut was 32.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, there was a common saying about age, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty”.

I think the reason for the saying is that certain things usually happen around that age–a certain sprouting of maturity, a decided seriousness that begins to take hold, the beginning of a sober search for a solid identity.

By definition, youth is not maturity and the youthful spirit tends toward a carefree attitude which keeps the identity somewhat amorphous.

Of course, all generalizations are prone to falsification in specific instances. Yet, many generalizations have the germ of possible truth.

So, obviously, there are writers who mature in their early twenties. There are writers who know more at thirty than most writers will ever learn. And, there are writers who break all the “rules”

Still, knowing as much as possible about life is critical to a writer’s craft. Learning, at depth, what makes people the way they are is the solid ground of creating living characters. And, knowing oneself, though a task that never ends, is the component of a writer’s knowledge which brings everything to its proper place.

I’m still out on that limb and feel like admitting one of my basic beliefs: Writers are writers before they know they are. The urge to use words creatively is a disposition of a person’s character. Not everyone with that proclivity will end up pursuing writing but the people who labor, day after day, to craft new realities had the inclination before they learned what to do with it.

My favorite author, C. J. Cherryh, was 34 when her first book was published. She’s written over 60 and won numerous awards.

I’ll leave you with a few words, from The Night Bazaar, by Ms. Cherryh:

“Writing drives your interests in life. When they ask who wants to ride the elephant, you know suddenly you really need to do that, more than just about anybody. I draw the line at jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, but that’s because I’m a bit of a klutz, and if anybody would screw up the ripcord, it would be me.

“Travel is good for you. Meeting unfamiliar situations is bread and butter to you. Where do you get your ideas? You inhale them, breath by breath, and stale air is just not good for creativity.”

I can’t avoid leaving you with one more, ever so insightful, Cherryh quote:

“Deal with the Devil if the Devil has a constituency–and don’t complain about the heat.”
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15 responses to “Learning How To Be An Author Means Much More Than Reading About How To Write…

  1. Karla Telega May 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

    I started writing songs in High School, long before I ever considered writing a book. I guess I had the bug early on. I think books on the craft of writing are especially helpful in considering what the reader wants and needs in a story. I love James Scott Bell’s new book, The Art of War for Writers. It’s not about developing a formulaic type of writing, but developing and releasing your own voice. The exercises are filled with ideas to help you develop characters, or introduce the unexpected into your story. Maybe not every writer needs to have some direction, but I found it very helpful.


  2. Jessie May 18, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Interesting post! Life experiences give you not only material to work with, but insight and wisdom as well, which are powerful tools for any writer to have. And I have to agree with CJ Cherryh—travel can do wonders for the imagination :)


  3. Kimmydonn May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Woot! 34! I’m right on! heh, like other commenters, I wrote some in high school and university, but it was pretty bad (at least in hindsight, some of it was bad at the time, too). A little over a year ago, a bug took me, and I wanted to start writing again. I had an idea for a story spinning off from a book I’d written, and I started writing FanFiction.
    I’ve chatted with authors of all ages, but certainly more are older than me (or my age) than younger. I think you are right that a certain wisdom, an ability to take criticism properly, and a new way of looking at situation comes with the full steps into adulthood. These are definitely strong virtues when taking up writing.


  4. cmmarcum May 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Ah, yes, empirical research. I told myself that’s what I was doing in days gone by; I wasn’t out just to have a good time. I wasn’t sneaking off on adventures for the fun of it and I wasn’t moving every two years and changing jobs, because I grew bored. I was gathering data. Whahah!

    If I had to guess why most writers have to reach the age of 32 before writing something exquisite, I’d say that about the same age that most people stop thinking: me, me, me and turn their gaze upon the world.


  5. Sonia G Medeiros May 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I love the part about writers being writers before they know they are. It took me a long time to really embrace myself as a writer. I loved to write, but I didn’t think I could claim the title of “writer.” I do now, published or not. :D

    I have something for you over on my blog. Stop by when you have a chance. :D


    • Alexander M Zoltai May 18, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      Yes, Sonia, I believe writers are such before they know they are from my own experience plus the experience of talking to many other writers…

      I truly appreciate the award, Sonia, but I have a “policy”. I had to tell Haley Whitehall the same thing I must say to you: please let someone else have the award. It’s not that it’s not appreciated, it’s that my blog’s design is such that I couldn’t display it and I’m sure there is another blogger who could :-)


  6. squidy December 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    and now “action” to be an author


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