Sunday, November 15, 2009

Write what you'll know about tomorrow.

I was participating in a conversation recently about motivating young adults to write. Someone mentioned when they address young writers on this subject they suggest they only take on subjects they know, and not venture into unfamiliar waters; siting the fear of discouragement as the reason. I was quite surprised at this, especially coming from an author. My argument was that a young writer should never limit themselves to only what they know. The whole idea seemed preposterous to me. How would knowledge ever expand? How would "style" ever evolve? Look at the mystery genre. If people only wrote about things they knew, it scares me to think there are that many writers out there who know how to murder people in so many creative ways.
Young writers have their own take on the world. Because of their age, the world is still new to them and they should be encouraged to challenge the norm. Because something was held as fact yesterday does not mean it will be acceptable as fact tomorrow. A young writer should seek out subjects that intrigue them and learn as much as possible about them. One of the greatest aspects of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is the research and discovery process. This also applies to style and structure. They should take hold of a topic, build a passion within and then set that passion to words. Sure, they'll stumble along the way, that's inevitable, but that too is part of the process. Look at the great Impressionists. The artwork we now acclaim as genius was once panned by the critiques. Writing is painting with words and, in that respect, it's an extension of our inner self. It's how we express that which inspires us to pick up the pen. Some will cheer at the result and some will pass it by, but they will never know if the work goes unwritten.

1 comment:

  1. Good point - I remember being told this same thing- long long ago, by an English Teacher who thought I had talent, but kept underlining unfamiliar words in my work. I was trying to write accurately and expand my vocabulary, she kept saying "Is this your word?"

    They were all my words!

    I also think, as a nonfiction writer, that it is very important to write about what you don't know - and why you don't know it, how you are going to change that, and where you were when you realized it, and who you are going to tell.