Evidently it is essential these days to be ?media savvy? to find success as a writer.
Equally, we are told, publishing companies and agents consider writers to be as much a product as their books and ?promotability? is far more crucial than the quality of their prose. So youth, beauty or at least some kind of unique ?life story? are the key ingredients to being picked out from the crowd and thrust into the literary limelight.
As one Times article declared recently, to make money as a writer it is vital these days to be young, be zeitgeisty, sell the rights.
Depressing indeed for us more mature writers who were too busy supplying the family?s finances with the day job to meet the mortgage and the bills, taking on extra work at weekends to fund occasional holidays and keeping the whole washing/cleaning/ironing/shopping side of life vaguely under control to devote ourselves to that zeitgeisty breakthrough first novel.
And truthfully, if I am entirely honest, when I did have time in my single, unfettered youth to devote my free time to writing a novel, did I actually have anything much to say? (it?s probably why I wrote commercial short stories for over 20 years before I considered I had enough felt experience to serve a full length work) It is such a clich? to say that writers/artists need to suffer in order to have anything of worth to share, but actually, the clich? has a valid point. Experience ? of life, of love, of loneliness, longing and desire ? inevitably enriches and filters through to the page. How can a writer build convincing, complex characters until he or she has come across a fair number?
Now for some interesting writerly facts about successful and rather mature novelists:
Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first of her Little House stories at the age of 64 ? too busy teaching, farming and bringing up her family before that.
Anne Sewell was 57 when ?Black Beauty? appeared
Frank McCourt published ?Angela?s Ashes? at 66
Mary Wesley was 70 when her first novel was published, going on to write 10 bestsellers in her life.
Few art forms are immune to the aging process ? it?s no good thinking you can take up ballet in middle age and still make it to ballerina status, turning 32 fouettes on the stage of the Royal Opera House. Opera singer and concert pianist are unlikely ambitions for musical novices of over 50.
But writing ? writing is different. People who are writers have probably always written – we have always been writers, in fact ? we simply hadn?t been published. Most of us no doubt started filling an exercise book from Woolworths with a novel at the age of 12, another at 14, then one at 16 ?only later to consign these fledgling works to the wastepaper bin in embarrassment.
But once you reach the age when ? well, once you reach a certain age, there?s a sense of now or never ? so, forgetting the injunctions to be young, be zeitgeisty, sell the rights, invoking instead the relevance for a writer to be well-worn, a little worldly and possibly even slightly wise, we go ahead.
Youth is not everything, after all. Experience, surely, has its significant, vital contribution in rendering a writer worth reading.