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*.
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.
* 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?”