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Write What You Know (1 Viewer)

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clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Luckyscars -- What is to be gained by implicitly accusing a fellow member of this forum of promoting "super reductive [argument] and/or semantic gamesmanship" (your 35) ? In fact, I argue exactly the OPPOSITE position, as would have been obvious to you had you noted the irony. In missing that, you misrepresent my thinking and my writing. At no point did I ever suggest that a writer must "be" or "have been" a character or that he must have "experienced" a specific experience to write about it convincingly. What utter bloody nonsense. To suggest I did, is to read with surprising hastiness. I DID--in error, for you, it seems--assume that the IRONY in my phrases ". . .what they 'know'" and "must have been" (see post 34) would be clear.

You then erect a straw man of your own design, and proceed to knock it down. Well, whatever . . . . But please do not include me in this rather insular approach to the principles of argument.

And note that I suggest Theseus has much to teach us about this whole complex Venn diagram issue of writer/perception/real experience/imagination/writing when he says that the poet's eye scours the known and unknown universe for 'material' but finally "the imagination bodies forth" the unknown and makes it known. Again, my point is the opposite of what you seem to think I am arguing.

In my view, you misrepresented my point, perhaps inadvertently, on the public boards. I have attempted to redress that . . .on the public boards. If you would like to continue what might well be a dispute between us, I must insist that you do so through Private Messaging, where I will happily engage. I'm sure you agree, our fellow members will have no interest in being involved further. Thank you.
 
And note that I suggest Theseus has much to teach us about this whole complex Venn diagram issue of writer/perception/real experience/imagination/writing when he says that the poet's eye scours the known and unknown universe for 'material' but finally "the imagination bodies forth" the unknown and makes it known.

Ultimately this is my beef with the "write what you know" adage. Although it seems almost presumptuous to say, I do believe that human beings can engage in what Tolkien calls "sub-creation" -- that, although the raw material may be experience or learned knowledge or the subconscious or whatever, the author ultimately can create things and experiences which have not previously existed. So, of course they are not writing what they know, because they are writing what was never known.

And if it is argued that "write what you know" is meant in an emotional sense, I would say that many stories, especially of the heavily sub-creative type, hinge on more than just plays of emotion. Is the atmosphere of Middle-Earth, or Narnia, or Malacandra, really just a conglomerate of the emotions of the characters involved and the experiences of the author? I would say, emphatically, no. Malacandra exists. If I traveled there I would know it. Anyone who read Out of the Silent Planet would know it. And they would know that it's not just a derivative of Earth (or the primary world): it's a new thing, another thing.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
If there's one thing that seems clear from this thread it's that the most well-meant advice can be taken many different ways.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Luckyscars -- What is to be gained by implicitly accusing a fellow member of this forum of promoting "super reductive [argument] and/or semantic gamesmanship" (your 35) ? In fact, I argue exactly the OPPOSITE position, as would have been obvious to you had you noted the irony. In missing that, you misrepresent my thinking and my writing. At no point did I ever suggest that a writer must "be" or "have been" a character or that he must have "experienced" a specific experience to write about it convincingly. What utter bloody nonsense. To suggest I did, is to read with surprising hastiness. I DID--in error, for you, it seems--assume that the IRONY in my phrases ". . .what they 'know'" and "must have been" (see post 34) would be clear.

You then erect a straw man of your own design, and proceed to knock it down. Well, whatever . . . . But please do not include me in this rather insular approach to the principles of argument.

And note that I suggest Theseus has much to teach us about this whole complex Venn diagram issue of writer/perception/real experience/imagination/writing when he says that the poet's eye scours the known and unknown universe for 'material' but finally "the imagination bodies forth" the unknown and makes it known. Again, my point is the opposite of what you seem to think I am arguing.

In my view, you misrepresented my point, perhaps inadvertently, on the public boards. I have attempted to redress that . . .on the public boards. If you would like to continue what might well be a dispute between us, I must insist that you do so through Private Messaging, where I will happily engage. I'm sure you agree, our fellow members will have no interest in being involved further. Thank you.

You are misreading and misrepresenting my point and are entirely, breathtakingly grasping at the wrong end of the stick. I am profoundly bewildered.

At no stage was I arguing against you, but at the issues others raise as related to your statement that “Shakespeare was not a king but wrote about kings” (paraphrase). I was, mostly, agreeing with you and simply applying it to the larger point. That it is an absurd standard - we agree.

Note the bolded below. If you read it slowly enough, without emotional cloud, you should be able to gather that it was not in direct response to you or your point but, rather, inspired by it, an addendum to it, directed at those who would take such things literally. I nonetheless apologize if it was unclear.

Let me know when you would like to apologize for your incorrect comprehension and, frankly, rather unwarranted and dramatic escalation.

No hard feelings either way, but however you decide...please do not misrepresent me moving forward. Thanks.

I said: “This goes back to my earlier point, though, which is that this all too often this topic becomes super reductive and/or semantic gamesmanship.

Your point about Shakespeare assumes that one must BE what one WRITES which is plainly not the case for the reason you explain”
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
This thread has gotten tangled.

None of us have been both male and female, been in every circumstance, played every sport, fought in a war and in the ring, endured every possible tragedy, floated weightless in space, gone to the bottom of the ocean [...]

What we can do is draw from our own experiences where possible, and fill in the blanks with a mixture of research and imagination.

In the end, we all do the best we can.
 

NobodyParticular

Senior Member
I have several notebooks, of the evolving and solidifying of a thought. They are more or less the proving of the reality of a thought, to my very self. But since I find this thought to be absolutely beneficial, if taken care of, like any plant in a garden needs, I’m curious how one might recommend taking these notebooks and putting them into another format? I don’t want to go the fictional route, as the storyline tends to distract from the purpose of the story. But again, if one does not take care of their garden, the weeds will surely overtake it, regardless of what is being done correctly.... Like watering and sun.... they just kind of happen. But the weeding needs kept up on, else it all grows together. Even before this is the preparation of the soil though.

Anyway, I was considering some Artful pages as well, to help fill out the book, once I figure out the path to take from notes to book.

To be more clear, it is surely a philosophical writing that I seek to put together, but all I have right now are notebooks of thoughts evolving and proving what is still yet theory. The thought is awesome. Looks good on paper. But who reads notes for fun? Lol, so I have to give this spirit a new form.

Any ideas? Or is this not the proper place? I mean, I can just think out loud in here, right?
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
I have several notebooks, of the evolving and solidifying of a thought. They are more or less the proving of the reality of a thought, to my very self. But since I find this thought to be absolutely beneficial, if taken care of, like any plant in a garden needs, I’m curious how one might recommend taking these notebooks and putting them into another format? I don’t want to go the fictional route, as the storyline tends to distract from the purpose of the story. But again, if one does not take care of their garden, the weeds will surely overtake it, regardless of what is being done correctly.... Like watering and sun.... they just kind of happen. But the weeding needs kept up on, else it all grows together. Even before this is the preparation of the soil though.

Anyway, I was considering some Artful pages as well, to help fill out the book, once I figure out the path to take from notes to book.

To be more clear, it is surely a philosophical writing that I seek to put together, but all I have right now are notebooks of thoughts evolving and proving what is still yet theory. The thought is awesome. Looks good on paper. But who reads notes for fun? Lol, so I have to give this spirit a new form.

Any ideas? Or is this not the proper place? I mean, I can just think out loud in here, right?
The discussion in this thread is about writing what you know. Your question would be best answered in its own thread.
 
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NobodyParticular

Senior Member
This thread has gotten tangled.

None of us have been both male and female, been in every circumstance, played every sport, fought in a war and in the ring, endured every possible tragedy, floated weightless in space, gone to the bottom of the ocean [...]

What we can do is draw from our own experiences where possible, and fill in the blanks with a mixture of research and imagination.

In the end, we all do the best we can.

Ah, but what if drawing from our own experiences, or the experiences of others, is what keeps us experiencing the same things? I mean, if we use the same ingredients, do we not get the same soup?
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Ah, but what if drawing from our own experiences, or the experiences of others, is what keeps us experiencing the same things? I mean, if we use the same ingredients, do we not get the same soup?

No, because there is the barrier of perception and bias and, it must be said, ability.

It's like if you have one hundred artists sketch the same landscape, none of them will be exactly the same. Some of the sketches may be similar, some more than others, but there will be different things that are focused on, different strengths and weaknesses of perception and execution. One artist might be really focused on/good at bringing to life a tree, another a field, another the sea. In this case, when we are dealing with two outlets of human input (the subject and the object) the variations are even more endless because of the inherent complexity of human beings.

Regarding whether that is truly infinite or not is anyone's guess, but consider writing...it's all made from just twenty-six letters, right? Then are all books the same? No, definitely not. Are any the same? Not really, not without plagiarism/mimicry. Are some more similar than others? Sure, some are very similar, but similar is not the same.

The variations even within a fairly small pool are massive, which is why even though a credit card has only 16 digits 0-9 there are 10,000,000,000,000,000 combinations of those ten numbers, which means you can effectively never stumble on the same thing 'accidentally'. Unless you cheat.

This is mainly why the 'give a chimp a typewriter and in a long enough timescale he will type out the works of Shakespeare' theory is, practically speaking, silly.
 

velo

Retired Supervisor
Just trying to be clear here: So because this thread is about what we “know”, there are to be no “questions”?

No, questions are fine but they need to be on-topic for the thread. Your response did not seem to be about the discussion at hand. I agree that this particular question would be best answered in its own thread.

velo, forum supervisor
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Ah, but what if drawing from our own experiences, or the experiences of others, is what keeps us experiencing the same things? I mean, if we use the same ingredients, do we not get the same soup?

An interesting point. What do you see as the alternative?
 

velo

Retired Supervisor
This is mainly why the 'give a chimp a typewriter and in a long enough timescale he will type out the works of Shakespeare' theory is, practically speaking, silly.

It was actually an infinite number of chimpanzees on an infinite timescale, if I recall correctly.
 

velo

Retired Supervisor
Ah, but what if drawing from our own experiences, or the experiences of others, is what keeps us experiencing the same things? I mean, if we use the same ingredients, do we not get the same soup?

I think that's missing the point. As others have said, I can write about being a woman or being in space but it's only conjecture. Sure I have a lot of data from other sources and could maybe pull it off but I don't think it would be as convincing as me writing about things I've experienced myself. This doesn't mean it has to be a super-focused thing. I have experienced the human condition since the moment of my birth and that encompasses a wide breadth of topics. I have more than enough experience to fuel my writing for a very long time. Now, if only I had the skill and imagination...

Sure, maybe you have a style or even a genre that you write about but so do a lot of authors. I don't see that as the same soup but as an area of expertise and those are two very different things.
 

Matchu

Senior Member
The ‘original’ version was ‘give a chimpanzee your typewriter, and show him how to write Shakespeare sonnets. You know he might just do it if you’re lucky.’ From memory...my memory not chimp.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
In a way, writing for me is similar to my work as a design engineer.

I would receive the specs and requirements, then would study it and ask questions. Then I would do rough drawings of what it would look like and how the internal components would fit together. I'd get more input, and do it again. Lather, rinse, repeat, until I couldn't hold it all back - which is when I would dive in and start committing the design to computer code, mechanical drawings, and electrical design.

In writing, the good idea pops into my head (this amounts to only about 2% of the junk flying between my ears). I then start taking notes in a paper note book - checking to see if the plot has legs and would be something I'd like to write. I go back and forth - lather, rinse, repeat - and the ideas crystalize and grow. Only then do I start in with Excel and Word to flesh it out. Finally, when I can't hold back the words anymore, I start the first draft.
 
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