When I wrote in high school, it was dreadful stuff. It wasn’t long poems about suicide or death that I wrote–imagine an Anne Hathaway character as a teen writing verse–but it was bad. My best two–I will spare you my worst–were “The Brother’s Bond,” “Dodd Meets Dodd,” and “Sir Kyle of Kenton.” All of these were primarily pieces of juvenile humor, and the last a failed attempt at tragedy, because in the end it turns out Kyle (a young boy) have died. “The Brothers Bond,” of course, is about James Bond’s little brother Luke, who hates his older brother and had to house him once because James seduced the head of the KGB’s daughter–at the end of the story, Luke’s apartment is blown to bits. As for “Dodd Meets Dodd,” (which a friend suggested I call “Reflections”), poor Dodd has a life in which he feels nothing exciting is happening–only for his reflection to step out of the mirror and say the equivalent of “I can live your life better than you,” and the two swap places.
I prefer to believe these stories were funny in an immature way, and “The Brothers Bond” had a friend who loved it, but I am forced to admit that none of them were great works of art. Nobody was going to publish them. They were funny but nothing more: they had cartoons’ appeal. More, I think I had friends who got sick of my handing them my stories.
However, I can brag one piece of high praise that I hold with me to this day. My Creative Writing teacher said, “You seem to enjoy writing more than anyone I know.”
That is the key to understanding the writer’s life when they are young. If a person enjoys writing, they can become a writer. I remember reading that Charles Dickens in high school wrote what amounted to “dreadful stuff.” His love poetry to his first love, Maria Beadnell, was equally mediocre. Yet by author’s standards he blossomed young when at 24 he published Sketches by Boz–but even this was prescient rather than on the level of his mature work.
More typical among writers are Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Hawthorne’s best work was published in his forties, and Herman Melville is the Grandma Moses of writing: though he wrote several best sellers when young, most critics agree it was shallow compared to the work of his old age, Moby Dick.
Yet here is the key: they were always writing. Hawthorne in his youth wrote a book called Fanshawe, which is lost to us because he burned every copy after it was published.
To use a different art form: Mozart was a meteor who as a child composed his own music and played the piano beautifully; Beethoven’s first few symphonies were only so good and were written in adulthood, and yet his “Ode to Joy” in his Ninth Symphony is considered one of the finest pieces of music ever written. When the Berlin Wall was torn down, the word “Joy” was changed to “Freedom” by joyous participants in its destruction.
To quote the New Testament, the journey to create great work is “Though many are called, few are chosen.” On the other hand, anything worth doing isn’t easy.
The primary way to get good at writing if you are an adult is to put aside time each day to write. However for a child, adolescent, or high school student, even sporadic work is a sign. Children do not have the discipline yet of adults.