Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On Getting Out of the New Ghetto: Age

It's the only ghetto that everyone grows into.  And the voices behind us grow ruder and more relentless:  'Step aside, old fool!  Make way!'

Writers have pretty much always had to battle their way into print.  The thing of it was, in the old days, writers had time to build a loyal audience while they went on to master their craft.  Today Elmore Leonard and Dean Koontz never would have got the chance to write the breakthrough novels it took them so long to accomplish. 

Ten years to mastery is a yardstick often used in any art, from martial to literary.  For some writers, however, the time needed may be fifteen years...or twenty...or even more.  And most of the writers I've met would say, 'Fine, I'm in this for the long haul.   I'm after greatness, whatever it takes.'   But here's the new catch that awaits them:  however well they handle they obstacles they face--family, financial, health, time--they'll be seen as from the new ghetto of age by publishers looking for something young and fresh.   And what a drag this is for readers, who--God love them--groove on the mastery and confidence that come from the long haul.

So, should we panic?  I think not.  Sensei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido and the patron saint of SOGs (Slightly Older Guys and Gals) still rocked on the mat in his nineties.  We can't be kids and mustn't try.   But we can be rockin' SOGs with the hardwon discipline and craftsmanship we've managed to snag through the years...and whatever spectacular lit tricks we've managed to stow up our sleeves.

Let's hit the mats and not go down on our ghetto's bloody streets.  SOGs of the trade--unite!

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