Saturday, 22 August 2009

Good Advice


"Spend some time living before you start writing. What I find to be very bad advice is the snappy little sentence, 'Write what you know.' It is the most tiresome and stupid advice that could possibly be given. If we write simply about what we know we never grow. We don't develop any facility for languages, or an interest in others, or a desire to travel and explore and face experience head-on. We just coil tighter and tighter into our boring little selves. What one should write about is what interests one."

Annie Proulx

9 comments:

  1. Agreed. I think the sentiment behind "Write what you know" is that, as writers, we should start from a basis of writing in a way that makes sense to us and on topics that won't totally throw us for a loop.

    What bums me out is when writers take that as gospel -when they refuse to try new types of writing or jump out of their familiar knowledge base to learn something new. My mom (who writes profusely) does a lot of online writing that involves unfamiliar topics, and she has learned so much in a short time -and I have learned it too, since we spend a lot of time writing in the same room.

    Writing what you know is only good as a starting point.

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  2. Interesting point, I think the idea of writing about what you know is that the writing will convince and appear authentic but as Annie says that can be limiting. I agree with her and write about what interests me, or rather, excites me.

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  3. I agree with both of you - and Annie. Just writing about what you know would be so boring - I write to find out!! That way it's always an adventure.

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  4. sounds like something my favorite English teacher would say : )

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  5. I agree with EAP but I also think that writing is so magical because we are able to write not just about what we think or experience, but about what we imagine - and that ensures the developement of the intellect,the heart and the soul. It is not confined or confining. It is an infinite process.
    wx

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  6. It was that first line of the quote that resonated for me.

    And I absolutely agree with Wendy about imagination; for that reason, I try always to be open to inspiration, in all places and at all times.

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  7. I have to say I love this. This is sooo what I have been up against. I want to write, but no one has been support of that desire until now when half my life is behind me. The idea that life experience could ever be the only thing that a writer can start with must simply be the dictates of those who do not write. This was inspirational.

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  8. Inspirational for me too, DM Carroll. There has to be input before output. I'm glad you all loved the quote as much as I do.

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  9. Just occurred to me the number of writers who never published anything until the second half of their lives was well under way, achieving fame over 60 - Catherine Cookson, Mary Wesley, Pamela Gillilan, Meg Peacocke, etc etc - so many of them women. Men don't spring so readily to mind, but maybe Alexander McCall Smith, and the author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen?

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