Daily Writing Challenge: Writing What You DON’T Know

Why, you might ask yourself, does Uphill Writing go on and on about some topics?

Glad you asked.  Mostly it is because I’m still percolating.  I do not believe in hard and fast rules.  I do not believe that one size fits all, and to that point, it seems, ideas come, thoughts expand, notions shift, and lessons are learned.

Does that mean we have no mental integrity?  I don’t think so, but I’m willing to take one for the team if you think I’m wrong.

Today I want to address, again, the failed and faulty old saw, “Write what you know.”  Take a look at how I addressed this on 9 April of this year.  While I haven’t changed much on the topic, there are some things I would like to add.

Ask all of your writing friends if writing is a craft or an art, and you are likely to get as many answers as you have respondents.  Why?  (Here comes an answer I hate, because it diminishes us), but—grumble—it seems to work in this case: it’s complicated*

The Road Not Taken: Image: smartlemming.com

If writing is only a craft, then writing what you know is de rigueur.  You’re stuck in a world of your own intimate understanding.

If writing is only an art, you can write anything you want, but your output is “doomed” to be fantastical, unattached to the earth and the common understanding of your reader.

If, however, writing is both—an even match or some combination thereof, you have opened yourself up to the wonderful world of imagination and creativity without having to forego the strings of reality that give your readers something to hold onto while ride along your storylines.

Today’s challenge is to write something outside of your comfort zone.  If poetry or fiction is your thing, write a short journalistic piece about government or industry.  If you typically write about current events, stretch out and make up a future “current event”, or a nature poem.  The challenge is to write a short piece in a form and format that you would typically not consider.

The challenge is to break out, test and taste.  The challenge is to try on a new idea like a coat.  Check the fit, look into the mirror and see how it makes you look and feel. 

I’m not asking you to change your ways, only to try something new.  I’m asking you to write what you do NOT know.

This is an experiment, a valuable one, but it won’t work if you only think about the experiment.  You actually have to give it a shot.  I can promise that you will gain much by doing this.

So, there it is.

This will be a challenge both to your craft, and to your art.  Are you up for it?

I’d love to hear how you do.

Your thoughts?

* To me, saying “it’s complicated” is tantamount to saying to someone, “I don’t have the words to tell you how much I appreciate…”  Come ON!  We’re writers we damn better have the words, or one day we’ll wind up asking people, “you want fries with that?”


6 responses to “Daily Writing Challenge: Writing What You DON’T Know

  1. On Philanthropy
    If I could reach out and give to everyone within the world, that giving would have to be a receiving: a belief in the person as they see themselves. I would have to reach beyond the interpretations based on my own vulnerabilities and prejudices, beyond my own ideals and ethical values. I would have to be a miner, not of gold, but of coal. I would have to take that coal and suffer it through my own personal furnaces of fire and flame, as though the eternal hell fire was held within my soul, and I were releasing the world from its fulcrum. I would have to absent my will from the universe. This not being possible, I can only contemplate the all within the all.

    Sorry. I meant it to be a journalistic remark on today’s announcement of billionaires giving up money for charity. But I couldn’t relate.

  2. Love this post, especially:

    “Mostly it is because I’m still percolating. I do not believe in hard and fast rules. I do not believe that one size fits all, and to that point, it seems, ideas come, thoughts expand, notions shift, and lessons are learned.”

    Ideas come, thoughts expand, notions shift and lessons are learned . . . EXCELLENT!

  3. Does that mean we have no mental integrity? I don’t think so, but I’m willing to take one for the team if you think I’m wrong.

    The first response I had at your challenge, was to ponder whether I could write such a blog as ‘Spirit Lights the Way’. Then, I revolted in myself, thinking again that I was thinking again about emulating another person, or attempting to fulfill some standard that I did not feel expressed what ‘voice’ I am working hard to develop.

    Thus the above. Just went for coffee, and realized that as usual it was one of my ironic, and yes, even possibly sarcastic pieces of ‘journalism’. So the question is will I end up asking people ‘will you want fries with that’. But then, that is precisely what I FELT I was being asked to do.

    I cannot be what I am not. I cannot write what I cannot write. I of course, (it’s mandatory) agree with nrhatch that your comments that ideas come, thoughts expand, notions shift, and lessons are learned”, but damn it they are going to be my own thoughts, my own notions and my own lessons learned. And if I was in the position, I wouldn’t mind waitressing. After all I’ve dug up basements. I don’t know. Maybe that’s the problem. I’m a waitress at heart, or by circumstance.
    But when it comes to the difference between the craft and art of writing; are we not asking the question as to whether writing is basically a rational or an imaginative activity; whether or not it is from the mind, or from the heart. The writer as waitress to the tastes of the world. Write for your audience, would then be a good maxim. Write for your audience.

    If you don’t wish responses written out to this post, would you please clarify your desires, so that I don’t step out of line again. In the meantime, I guess, even without being able to be different, I was right in keeping with my usual irony, satires, call it what you will, writing about my feelings with respect to today’s requirements.

    My apologies if I offend. compliment, comment, criticism. Your the best Richard. Comment may be too long. And it’s not a criticism, just a reaction from somebody who is attempting to be a waitress.

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