The Growing Up of Writing

This month, for the AW Blog Chain we talked about birthday’s and “growing up”. Many of us remember growing pains as we grew through each of the life stages behind us but did you know that our writing experiences similar growing pains?

The Labor of our Love of Writing

The Labor of our Love of Writing

It all began, years before it all began. We gestated our love of language and writing through our own growth stages. Many writers can remember the joy of written creations shaping childhood. We daydreamed of the creativity we would, one day, bring into this world.

Eventually, the nesting period culminated in the pain and loss of childhood innocence. We brought our writing out into the harsh light of day. No longer could we cocoon our inspiration and ideas in the womb of secret passions. And so, our writing was born into the world. For the first time, others admired the wonder. Our baby was beautiful, at least in our own eyes, and the real journey was just beginning.

Each idea, story, or article is born in the same way. It starts, nestled safely in our minds and hearts until we push through the anxiety and pain to bring it out onto the page.

Cutting our Writing Teeth

After those labor pains, writing wandered through weeks of sleepless nights. We would delve into it at a moment’s notice any hour of the day. Often, we were tired, sometimes a little sad, but we were also high on the joy and wonder of creation.

As our writing grows up, however, teething inevitably arrives with sore gums, misery, and sometimes tears. Frustration dampens the thrill. What was once easy and effortless became a chore.

It is in this stage too that we begin to truly judge our writing. Our critical eye develops and we start to see our babies as they really are.

The pain of teething makes us want to stop. Many would-be writers do stop at this point, unaware that we explore new wonders, new tastes, after our teeth come in.

Temper Tantrums, Trouble Makers, and Id.

Temper Tantrums, Trouble Makers, and Id.

Have you ever met a three year old that was an angel ALL the time? I didn’t think so. Because after teething, children come into their twos, threes, and fours. These are the years of discovery. They find their personality, their Id, their sense of self and belonging. And in discovering how they influence the world around them, and that they are a single cog in the wheel of life, they rebel and test their boundaries.

Our writing also goes through this stage. After it’s munched on a few crunchy husks and found it’s teeth it reaches a stage of discovery. It becomes curious, it explores, it takes chances, and it gets hurt and scared. It tests its boundaries and throws tantrums.

This age of our writing is a wonderful part of growing up. It is when we discover our true voice and come to cherish what is unique about what we have to share with the world. These years feel the longest and sometimes, no matter how grown up we become, we revert to those trouble-making three-year-olds. Fear builds and we need to test our boundaries. We need to be reassured that we are safe and protected.

Striking Out with Writer Independence

Around the age of ten, most of us went through a new stage, we discovered that we could do things on our own. We no longer needed permission, we could make choices and decisions for ourselves. But, we were insecure in making choices so sometimes we would get clingy, emotional, angry, frustrated, and scared.

Once past the tantrum stage, our writing goes through a few years where it wanders in the youthful enthusiasm of childhood before it starts to understand danger and risk. Before then, it acts without realizing that what it does might be hazardous but as understanding dawns it begins to question what is right and it realizes that its power to affect others can do as much harm as good.

This stage of development is one that is truly magical but often overlooked. It feels like an in-between, we often just think the ten year old is a ten year old. Not quite a child, not quite a teenager, still young, carefree, and without the worries of the world on their shoulders. But a ten year old worries, and our ten year old writing become concerned too. As the weight of those worries build in the coming years it leads into the next stage.

Responding to Responsibility - Teenage Rebellion

Responding to Responsibility – Teenage Rebellion

When that former ten year old now about fourteen realizes they’ve had enough of the sense of responsibility that comes with growing up they rebel. They toss off the shackles of responsibility. They want to be carefree again. They want to make bad choices and they don’t want to be concerned with consequence. They want to be three-years-old again, when right and wrong didn’t matter and when they were still oblivious to danger.

Our writing loves this stage. If you’re in it you won’t know it but your voice is dramatically different in this stage. It’s not even really “you” so much it’s the mask you put on, the face you show others. This is also the age where you’ll find your writing most mimics others. You wear the masks of other people as your writing tries to fit in.

You’ll often find in this stage you begin to harness the ability to put deep emotional ties into your writing. That angst you felt as a teenager is angst your teenage writing gives voice. Before your writing reaches adulthood it can bleed on the page, everything is intense, without filter. It often lacks direction and almost never has a plan. It also ignores consequence. But it’s only steps away from the balance, understanding, and grounding of adulthood.

Balance, Understanding, and Grounding

All of these stages eventually lead to adulthood. You’ve been reckless, you’ve abandoned responsibility, you’ve discovered your sense of being separate and distinct from others, you’ve taken a bite out of life, and become your own person. You step away from your family and begin building a place for yourself in the world. You’re still learning who you are, because none of us ever really stop, but you’ve got a firmer grasp of yourself and your emotions. You’ve learned that you have a place in the world and that, to some degree, you have the power to shape that place.

When our writing reaches this same level of maturity it too has learned that it has a place in the world and that it has the power to shape that place. We’ve learned to harness our raw emotions, to give them essence and strength on the page. But we’ve also learned that those emotions play a part in the greater whole of our story. They aren’t just there for the sake of being there, they, in their very being, have significance to the story and to the characters.

We’ve also learned through growing up that there are times when writing is hard and there are times when we can write from the core of our three year old, we can write from the minds of our ten year old, we can write from the heart of our fourteen year old, and that all of those things are within the adulthood of our writing. In this, maturity of our writing, we have greater command and control. We know how to manipulate language, and to put our influence on the page.

In adulthood, we’ve also learned the importance of having a message. Our writing is no longer aimless, it conveys, it transforms, and it brings value to those around us. We’ve learned to be giving and we’ve learned to use our strengths to make a difference for others, and ourselves.

What have you learned as your writing was growing up? Do you think you’re still in one of these other stages? Do you recognize any stages I’ve not mentioned? How has your own writing grown?

See what other Absolute Writers have to say about “Growing Up”:

Published by

Rebecca Laffar-Smith

Rebecca Laffar-Smith is a publisher, children's writer, and novelist. In 2010 she gave up a successful 12-year freelance career to focus on her three loves; family, community, and fiction. She self-published her debut novel The Flight of Torque in June 2014 and the first three titles in the P.I. Penguin series in from Aulexic in May 2015. At The Craft of Writing Fiction, Rebecca shares her journey of creation and learning with readers. She loves getting to know her fellow readers and writers and can be contacted through Twitter and Facebook, or Email.

22 thoughts on “The Growing Up of Writing”

  1. “Our baby was beautiful, at least in our own eyes…”
    Isn’t that just the case? 🙂

    Beautiful post with so much thought provoking material! You could write a book on writing with growing up as your metaphor with all those great thoughts! 🙂

    I completely agree on the stages. I’ve seen it, felt it, done it …

    1. As I was writing the post I kept thinking of OTHER things that would work into the metaphor and how I could branch out to discuss ways to handle the various parts of our writing’s “growing up”. I already had 1400 words but I couldn’t bring myself to trim it down in this post. I know there is far more I could add to the topic. It’s amazing how the spark of an idea, your two little words, “growing up”, can lead to wonderful inspiration.

  2. Excellent post!

    I’ve been describing my own writing ‘journey’ like this for a long time, now, so it’s lovely to see I haven’t been alone.

    I now feel that I’m JUST about through all of those stages. I now feel as if I have peace. That things are calm. Although I hope I never stop learning.

    I still have my ‘teenage’ moments… but that’s half the fun of writing :0)

  3. Oh, yes, all my babies are beautiful and perfect until the tantrums (usually mine) begin. I have one baby I have had to send away to boot camp because it would not behave and play well with others. Currently, I’m gestating a new one. I know this one will be better. My first grown up child is off in the harsh world seeking an agent. It’s been a rough road – School of Super Hard Knocks – with no happy ending in sight.

    Nice metaphor!
    .-= FreshHell shares: Books-A-Zillion =-.

    1. I think it’s fascinating how each of our “babies” are so different and unique to themselves. Just like our human children have their own individual tendencies. But the all go through these stages. Enjoy the gestation and birth of your latest. 🙂

  4. Great post, Rebecca. Everything you said is so true. I think we all can attest to everything in this post. Its crazy how our writing reflects who we are and our experiences in this world. It seems the more experienced we are in life, the more mature our writing is.

    That said, we all still do have those moments in life and in our writing when we revert to those ‘childhood’ and ‘teenage’ moments. I know I did when I was working on my book.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Wow, great post!
    Never thought about it like that, but it’s true.
    We’re always growing as writers. I’ve grown a lot since I’ve started, but still have a long way to go.


    1. I think our writing never stops growing, Michele. I’m always amazed at how far mine has come over the years and I know there is still so much I have to learn, so much growing still to do. I think the opportunity to continue learning and growing is a part of what makes living so exciting.

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