The Boss on Writing

Bruce Springsteen turns 65 today. I’m a fan of “the Boss” not only as a musician, but as a poet. When I first bought the “Born to Run” album, it didn’t leave my CD player for a month: I’d never heard rock and roll use words in such a way. Springsteen doesn’t just write lyrics, he writes stories. Each song is a musical novella complete with characters and evocative imagery. However, he doesn’t believe one needs to be as world-weary as the people in his songs to write compellingly:

“I tend to be a subscriber to the idea that you have everything you need by the time you’re 12 years old to do interesting writing for most of the rest of your life – certainly by the time you’re 18.”

A snapshot I took at a Springsteen concert in 2012
I attended a Springsteen concert in 2012; he’s a great performer, and a great storyteller with music.

At first I scoffed at this quote, thinking of how drastically my own writing has improved since college. But as I reflected, I realized that most of those improvements are technical. The stories themselves have roots in ideas from my adolescence. Early ancestors of Blue Karma appeared on my hard drive almost a decade ago, while The Darksider Trilogy evolved from a short story I began at age 16.

Perhaps Springsteen meant that we absorb enough narratives, characters, and experiences in our youth to fuel a lifetime of writing. That struck me as one reason why I favor young adult fiction. Children and teens have underestimated powers of observation, and because so many experiences are being encountered for the first time, their responses are that much more dramatic. It makes them wonderfully dynamic protagonists.

This notion should also encourage all the aspiring writers out there. You may not think you have stories to tell or interesting experiences upon which to draw–a chronic complaint of mine in college writing workshops–but don’t sell yourself short. Revelations come from all kinds of unlikely sources, be they young writers or guitar heroes!

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