A week or so back I got into a twitter discussion about whether any authors are any good late in life. Many people felt like a writer’s middle years are their best,and that most make a slow (or rapid) decline into irrelevance. But offsetting age and the loss of faculties, most felt,was that your ‘craft’ would grow and develop.
I’ve always kind of blindly assumed this: that as I kept writing I’d get better at writing. That of course my third novel would be better than my first, because that’s what happens, right?
But I’ve just started wondering why that would be the case. Why should anyone learn anything about writing just from writing? It’s not like you get much feedback. A swift edit, perhaps, from an overworked and underfunded publisher. Maybe a few short reviews here and there that might or might not give you some useful feedback. Writing, for most people, is an entirely solitary pursuit without teachers or even peers to push you to better things (unless you’re the kind of writer who seeks that out).
So why should you get better? Is there anything essential about writing itself that causes someone to get better at it?