Reading the program notes at the symphony last weekend, my husband wondered about music prodigies versus writing prodigies — the former often burst upon the stage before their twelve-year-molars come in; the latter are often having bridge work and root canals before their talents are recognized.
Why is this? What is it about music that produces, or reveals genius, at such young ages? Does music come from a part of the brain easily accessed by the Little Tykes set but the brilliant writing brain can only be unlocked by those who’ve pedaled around the block at least a couple dozen times or so? Found some interesting articles and posts on the topic that offer up a few insights.
Prodigal writing demands not only mastery of language but insights and experiences not easily, or naturally, gained. A ten-year-old couldn’t have written Slaughterhouse Five; had a sixth grader penned In Cold Blood he’d probably be taken into protective services.
It’s not that writing prodigies don’t exist, but that
writers need time to come into their gifts; the creative well is primed by the stuff of life churning and replicating in its depths. This should give us hope. Hemingway’s first book was published when he was in his twenties; Helen Hooven Santmeyer was eighty-eight. And that’s just age at publication, not age at writing.
You can only be a prodigy once. But you can be productive for years on end. Which is the more prodigious goal?