Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Are you really too old to become a television writer?

It's not exactly a secret that being a young person gives you an advantage in today's youth obsessed society. Employers seek and in many cases prefer people who are both young and fresh out of ivy league colleges.

What this means is that if you're a thirty- or a forty-something, some may see you as a product of the old, not as someone who's vibrant, not someone who's able to do his job and able to lead the way for the next generation.

In my opinion, this isn't always a bad thing. There are certainly areas of expertise - like being a computer programmer or an athlete - where being young and able is not a bad combination at all. Sometimes it's good to be young.

On the other hand, when it comes to something like being a writer - which is my supposed expertise - being young isn't necessarily a good thing. Hiring writers based on your age - depending on the quality of whatever product you have - can be really dumb.

There are numerous problems with hiring young writers. Unlike with many other professions, when it comes to writing, there's the real issue whether these young adults have any skills or abilities.

As far as I know, it's almost impossible to educate and teach anyone to become a good creative scribe. You either have it in you or you don't. It doesn't have much, if anything to do with education or wanting to be good.

Just because you graduated from a screenwriting class doesn't really mean much.  In order to be a good or a great writer, in most cases you need to have at least certain amount of life experience before you can have anything meaningful to say.

Let's not forget that writing is not that much about learning a technique or a style. It's much more about having substance and having the ability to express what's right and what's wrong.

This is what makes the whole entertainment industry so problematic: hiring these mostly young inexperienced writers who at best have been influenced by Seinfeld and at worst haven't seen a show better than Happy Endings.

What can we really expect from the next batch of writers? It makes me worry when I think how much worse television might get if and when we unleash these new fresh faces who - most of them - haven't grown up emotionally. Most of them probably haven't ever "lived".

In my opinion, when we keep asking questions like "are you too old to become a writer" at least in certain cases we're asking the wrong question. Perhaps every once in a while we should ask "what do you know about life" or "aren't you a bit too young?".

Certainly I'm not saying that if you're much over 40 you should start thinking about getting a writing career on television. At the same time, worshiping youth as much we're apparently doing now just won't get us anywhere.

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