So before I start, a disclaimer: teen authors (by this I mean published teen writers) are great. There are a ton of them, and as a young teen I collected those names to stuff into my mental box of heroes. (I actually have some blog posts listing teen authors, in fact). I think it is awesome that teens get published young, and I say good for you, if you accomplish something like that.
I wouldn't be surprised if every young teenage writer aspired to get published before their 18th birthday. I daydreamed of it so many times. I would get an agent. People would email me, asking for interviews on how someone so young would get an agent. My local newspaper would have an article about me. My teachers would hold up my book in class. Peers would suddenly be name-dropping my name. "Oh, yeah, I went to school with that girl. Yup, she had poofy hair and didn't talk much, but she was so cool. But yeah, I knew her."
This post is maybe just a way of making myself feel better for not being published as a teen, but I think that's legitimate. I think it's okay to say that I like how my life has turned out, and the reasons for it.
So, here are some reasons why I'm glad I wasn't published as a teen.
1. My writing still has a long way to go
I thought my writing was pretty good (at least my family told me so haha) as a teenager. Maybe it was, comparatively. But when I look back on anything I've written, especially stuff I wrote as a 13-15 year old, I cringe. Everything needs work, as far as I can tell. (And that's just me. I'm sure any critique partners would notice much more). But I'm glad I didn't put that work out into the world and that instead I let myself just write, practicing and improving over time.
2. No pressure
This might not be a good thing, considering how much I don't prioritize my writing, especially when I have schoolwork to do. But I'm glad that I am able to write on my own terms, and don't have to worry about deadlines or anything. I can make my own goals for myself, and jump all over the place with genres and such, and just enjoy writing and creating story and characters.
3. No job
Publishing a book is a business. This is obviously something not a lot of 13-year-olds would realize, and I certainly didn't. But publishing a book is a business, and being an author is a job. What 13-year-old wants that kind of responsibility? I sure didn't.
4. I can still have fun
I've had so much fun with my writing. I enjoy writing, because I do it for me. I enjoy reading, because I do it for me. Once you become an author, you have to be careful of everything you say about books and fellow authors. And your writing is always being picked a part. As a non-professional reader and writer, I have a lot of freedom.
5. I learned a lot
I have had the opportunity to learn so much, about publishing, about writing, about interacting with writerly people online (almost entirely thanks to this blog). If I would have been published at a young age, I think I would have stumbled through a lot of the process, and rather messily at that.
All of that being said, someday I still hope to be published, but I definitely don't think it's too late just because I'm exiting teenagerdom. Being a success at a young age doesn't make you more of a success, which is definitely something that I've had to come to terms with.
Basically I'm just really thankful for the way that my writing and reading and thoughts about both have been developed, as well as my involvement in the online writing community.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are your thoughts on teen authors? Did you daydream about being one? Do you wish you would have worked harder to be published earlier?
So I probably wrote this more than a year ago, since I said I was "exiting teenagerdom", and I have been a legal adult for four years now. To be fair, I never really did the work of trying to get published - writing queries, researching agents, committing to a thing for more than three drafts... But that's because I didn't want to. My 13-year-old self might be horrified at me now - I'm already so old and I still don't have a book out! Sorry, 13-year-old me, I've been busy doing other things, and you know what, it's been great! Also publishing is maybe not all it's cracked up to be! Leave me alone!
Basically, if you happen to be a young writer reading this, just write. Worry about everything else later.
I'll leave you with this quote from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird:
"Publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is.”