One of my publishers just signed an author who is in her teens, and that brought up a question I've often asked myself. How does age affect my writing? I remember my teen years and I had an amazing imagination back then. Through the years, lots of things have changed, but imagination is not one of them. Still burning brightly, sometimes blindingly so, I have no dearth of story ideas to turn into books.
Thinking about how age affects our writing does bring out a couple of questions I'd like your input on, if you don't mind sharing your thoughts with me. I would say that a young author can easily speak for her/his generation in the realm of YA writing. That should be a piece of cake for a true author. But, can a youngster successfully capture the thoughts and feelings of older adults? Lots of them have tried, but in my opinion, only a few have ever been able to truly depict middle age.
Conversely, can an older adult truly depict life as indelibly as teens discover it? I know, we've all been there and done that; experiencing life in the growing lane, that is. Most of us have families replete with the younger generation, and live vicariously through our kids and grandchildren. But, are we able to do justice when tapping out a 'tween's innermost feelings? Or a young adult's first foray into things sexual? How about the dizzying complexity of what one will do with one's life, say about the time one graduates from normal school?
Write what you know. A maxim that has served writers well through the ages, it also can be considered a warning for us to avoid treading into territory we know not. And that, in my opinion, is where imagination comes into play. Some of us, I'd say a very few, come equipped with such vivid imaginations that we can place ourselves in aged shoes to synthesize what it feels like to be old.
If you can't feel in your bones what it's like to have to stretch old muscles just to be able to stand without falling; to try to lift an object you've carried around for years, only to learn that you no longer can get it off the table; if you can't feel the weariness creeping through your limbs early in the day, don't try to write about old folks.
If you can't remember what it is to wake up bursting with energy, fighting the clock to get out there and discover new frontiers; if you can't depict accurately the thrill of your first love, of suffering through the depressing low of your first rejection by your peers; don't attempt to write for young adults. That's my opinion.