I’m a young writer. Well, up to a point. I’m young (17) and I write (novels being just one facet of that, this blog being another).
Quite often, these two aspects of my existence are lumped together, and not in a good way. A ‘young writer’ means a ‘new writer’ or an ‘inexperienced writer’ or a ‘practising writer’ or even a ‘bad writer’. Never mind that people of any age can be a ‘new’ writer (and what counts as new? I’ve been writing novels for four and a half years, but I’ve been writing stories far longer than that), or can have varying levels of experience. And of course, it means nothing to these critics that teens can and have been published, both traditionally and independently.
But that’s about prose, and novels, and stories, and I genuinely believe that that world is changing so that young people are becoming recognised, and older writers are realising that we can write just as well as many of them — or at least, shouldn’t be dismissed because of our youth.
Poetry is an entirely different kettle of fish.
A recently Freshly Pressed post had a mention of a 17-year-old poet. In this post, the writer mulled over the relative inexperience of this girl, and how this caused them to be prejudiced against them, before realising that they weren’t even looking at the poems on their own merit. (They also went on to talk about one’s personal experiences impact on how we read things, which is definitely true.)
I’ve talked about life experience before. So I’m not going to repeat everything I said there. Just this: “In the end, the experiences I have had are more important for writing than the ones I haven’t had.”
I’ve been writing a lot of poems recently. Some of them can be found floating around the internet, although not my best ones, which I’m keeping hidden in a folder on my computer. Why? Well, because Charley is nagging me to publish them and while my initial reaction was to say “Nah, that’s pretentious” and “anyone can write poems”, I’ve started thinking about it. So they’re going to stay under wraps for a while.
The thing is, I know that a lot of my poems are angsty. I appreciate that and expect it. Many of them I wrote deliberately angry or stressed out or sad, because that was the emotion I wanted to portray. For me, they’re deeply personal, and every single one comes from an aspect of my own life, even if it has been changed or altered to give it poetic value. My poems are my struggles and my thoughts, and while I know that other people can appreciate them (as some of my friends have read them), I also know that there are lines only I will understand, as only I know what I was thinking when I wrote it.
As a result, I know that somebody reading it might think of lines as pretentious. Or childish. Because they don’t understand the context, and they don’t know what’s going on in my life that I might be writing about. Because they assume that youth means poetry is going to be overwrought and without any poetic value.
Maybe it is. Maybe I’ll come back to them in a few years and feel the same.
But I’m not so sure. Because I’m at the point where I read my poems and 70% of them I hate, but there are 30% that I’m willing to keep, even if they need a bit of work before I’ll let people read them. When I was younger, I enjoyed everything I wrote. Now I’m more discerning.
Surely that’s a sign that I’ve improved?
I can’t imagine that I’ll get to 18 and simply because I’m a legal adult, my poetry will ‘grow up’ and be instantly different. So many poets started young that I don’t understand why still we associate “17-year-old poet” with “pretentious” and, more often these days, “hipster”.
Maybe we just like to express ourselves through verse.