It’s been said that beginner writers would be well-advised to write what we know.
No major arguments there from me.
After all, as famous writer Flannery O’Connor once opined, anyone who survives childhood has enough information to write for the rest of his or her life. Meaning, even as early as 12 or 13 years of age, each of us already knows enough to write stuff and share them with anyone keen to read.
So since I’m already past 50, there’s definitely more than enough ink in my pen to write for however long I still have on God’s green earth!
When I started this blog, that was certainly my ‘writers philosophy’, courtesy of O’Connor as well as sound advice from my online writing coaches. And so far, my blog’s cornerstone content has given me no end of stuff to write about (fingers crossed!).
But, after more than 270 blog post uploads here, and a bunch of essays I submitted that were published elsewhere, I’m starting to feel there may be a subtle but certain shift that’s about to take place in my writing.
I call it…
…writing what I want to know.
[Rosner’s a child of parents who survived the Holocaust, so much of her writing — three novels and a collection of poems — have as backdrop that legacy and the tragedy of war, including her 2017 effort Survivor Cafe.]
Somewhere near the 13th minute of that podcast, Rosner said something that struck me like a lightning bolt!
She said: “…I’m writing what I want to know. Which is, I’m writing what intrigues me, what feels mystifying and puzzling to me, I’m going after that. So I’m writing what I want to know, not what I already know.”
For me, that insight couldn’t have come at a better time!
Writers are like travellers headed down a mystery path
You see, while I won’t admit to writer’s block (Marion would kill me!), I would have to say that after over 270 posts, I’ve already managed to put down most of what I know so far for my cornerstone content: Autism, Parenting, Writing and Life.
Now that’s not to say I know it all.
It just means I’ve written down what I know so far.
Sure, I might still have a couple of cards in my deck I’ve not put down on the table. Could be I’m still holding out for a better time. Could be I just forgot where I left them.
The point is, I have been feeling of late that I’ve reached some kind of a plateau, but not quite a dead end yet.
Because, in keeping with the “raw and unfinished journey” theme that undergirds many of my posts, this “writing plateau” has, within its reach, another pathway that’s taking me where I’ve never been.
Like a traveller in a forest stumbling onto a new mysterious trail before him, I find myself inexorably drawn to places I have neither map nor compass for.
And boy do I feel….
I’m now, like Rosner, fascinated with discovering things I’ve no knowledge or notions about.
And writing about them is my way to unpack; to learn and figure things out. Or at least begin the process of finding out, even if I might not succeed at first.
But what a treat! The prospect that upon completing a piece of writing, I might unearth something hitherto unknown in my corner of the universe?
What could be better right?!
And as it turns out, I appear to be in good company with other (err hum) fellow writers too!
– “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” (Flannery O’Connor, 1925 – 1964)
– “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” (Joan Didion, 1934 – 2021)
– “I’m one of those people who doesn’t really know what he thinks until he writes it down.“ (Stephen King, 1947 – )
– “I do not know what I think until I write it.“ (George Bernard Shaw, 1856 – 1950)
– “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.“ (William Faulkner, 1897 – 1962)
So bolstered now by these illustrious writers, and armed with this ‘new-fangled’ notion of writing what I want to know, I’m ready to explore the heights or depths of knowledge and wisdom; depending on whether I’m standing still on this plateau and looking up ahead, or taking a plunge into the unfathomable depths of the vast, mysterious ocean that is life.
Henceforth, my writing may start to look even more raw, unpredictable, and possibly indecipherable too! Worse I might not even be able to wrap them up in nice beautiful ribbons like I’ve done with most other posts.
No matter. Life’s a mess we must all wade into some time or other. Which makes it more exciting don’t you think?
Anyway, I’m all in.
What about you?
Care to join me?
Great! Let’s do this!
[Do click here if you’re curious to read about my other “writing heroes”!]