An actor friend asked me if I had ever written a play. I sent him something I’d written many years earlier that was somewhere between the page count of a proper full length play and a one act. He suggested I either lengthen it or shorten it. And he added as a word of encouragement, “Look at it with fresh eyes. I’m sure you have improved as a writer since you wrote it.”
This forced me to deal with two major issues I have as a writer. First I am terrible at rewriting my own work. I fall in love with my genius (or lack of it). I look at the words and say how can I possibly improve upon perfection and then spend the remainder of the afternoon thinking about important things like what is that weird growth coming out of my ear.
But of greater interest was the idea that a writer would necessarily improve with age. They often say practice makes perfect, but there are times I have read something I wrote in the past and then damn the torpedos because I don’t think I’m currently cranking out anything of equal value. Faithful readers of www.pablochiste.com have been chiming for quite some time about the general regression of the writing on this site as 2010 has turned into 2011.
We as a culture like to think that with age and experience we improve upon our chosen craft. We like to believe we are constantly evolving and thus so should our work. But perhaps lazy habits, a constant reliance of failsafe techniques and clichés, and the probability of running out of interesting things to say might mean writers should follow the career arc of gymnasts. Start young, go all out, then find a job as a Hollywood stunt double and at night put on a mask and fight crime.