Write What You Know?

I subscribe to a couple of book reviews because I like to see what professional authors are writing about.  Occasionally I come across books which I buy or, at least, put on my “To Be Bought Later” list for when I have more time to read them.  The list has gotten rather long.

Several weeks ago, I was reading a review of a book on the art of writing.  The reviewer quoted a point a book author made about the often-used piece of advice to new writers: “Write what about you know.”  He was critical of that point saying that if writers only wrote about what they were familiar with, their works would eventually become pedestrian and redundant.  I’m not certain I fully agree with him, although I understand what his intent was.  When I was preaching every Sunday, I would sometimes say to my congregation, “I only have one sermon topic; I just preach it 52 ways.”  I think there is room within seeming sameness for creative variety.

Nevertheless, I think an important issue concerning how we express ourselves, regardless of the medium (writing, music, art, Facebook® and Instagram® posts, podcasts, or sidewalk conversations), is whether we are taking opportunity to expand on what we know.  How much more interesting life is when we learn things we didn’t know before, when we take an interest in something that is outside of existing knowledge base and comfort zone.  I’ll even spiritualize the point for a moment: In small and sometimes big ways we can bless others when our willingness to learn new things is used by GOD in unexpected ways.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  Expanding what we know is preparation for opportunities only GOD knows are ahead.  Okay, I’m done spiritualizing. 

A friend who plays several musical instruments, was asked by someone how he became so good a musician.  My buddy’s response was, “I practice.”  A few years ago, I met an elderly woman at a retreat center who was there on a six month sabbatical.  She was retired and had been widowed for a little over a year.  As a younger woman, she had developed an interest in fine art.  Despite taking a few classes, life’s other’s responsibilities got in the way and she didn’t pursue it the way she wanted.  Now that her children were grown and independent and she was a widow, she had decided to devote her time to pursuing her interest with a vengeance, thus her sabbatical.  After telling me this story over dinner, she asked if I’d like to see some of her work which was displayed in the retreat center’s art gallery.  She had multiple paintings and drawings on four separate walls of the gallery, and they were all phenomenal.  How many people do we admire because of some perceived talent they have that we enjoy?  Chances are their talent has been honed because of lots of practice. 

Have you been itching to learn how to play guitar?  Go ahead and get started.  Sure, the tips of your fingers will get sore and maybe even blister, but you can overcome that.  Those blisters will turn into callouses.  Keep going!  How many years have you been talking about learning that second language?  There are so many inexpensive tools that you can access to help you; you just have to make up your mind that you’re going to put in the work.  Of course, it’s going to take time, but so did the things you already know.  In this season of Covid-19, is there time for you to take that online course you’ve been thinking about?  If you have time, perhaps the only thing stopping you is your will to do it.                    

Back in the day, “go for what you know” was a common expression in my peer group.  It means make the best choice you can based on your understanding.  The greater your understanding, the more you can go for.  I will continue to write what I know, but my desire and my plan is to know more…and write about that too.

What about you?

© Byron L. Hannon, 2020.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.      

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