|What does a maze represent for you?
I’m sure we’ve all seen one particular piece of advice that’s handed out to new, would-be and, indeed, seasoned writers: write about what you know. Which is all fine and dandy until I read about a succesful series starring a time-travelling vampire disc jockey (it really is the way I tell ’em), and then I start to wonder.
I sometimes twist the advice around so that it reads: know what you’re writing about. Which makes a lot more sense to me. Not that I’m in the habit of offering writing advice.
I do like models though (no, not that kind), and while I appreciate Alfred Korzybski’s
assertion that ‘the map is not the territory’, it can be bloody handy if you’re trying to navigate through somewhere you’ve never been before.
On reflection, one useful model for good writing might be a combination of:
a) Sufficient knowledge (information).
b) The relevance of that knowledge to the reader (context).
c) A fresh and compelling way of presenting the above (angle).
Although the requirements for fiction or non-fiction may be slightly different, I think those same building blocks still stack up. And when you look at it that way, anyone can do it.
[Insert a pause here for optimism or sarcasm, as the mood takes you.]
A quick glance through my CV (I’ve been reviewing it this week) shows pieces about interior design, electronic equipment, personal security, private education, staff motivation, intuitive symbolism, chickens, and downshifting, among others.
I guarantee that anyone who knows me even relatively well will find the idea of me writing about at least one of those subjects incongruous and amusing. Nevertheless I wrote what was required. Not because I’m as clever as I sometimes purport to be (I do impressions), but because I understood the brief and the rules of the game. My point is that we ought not to be put off by the idea from writing about a subject because we don’t feel we have the expertise. Writing is as much about exploring possibilities and ideas as it is about putting words down on the page.
However, there really is something I know that you don’t know. And it’s about a fiction competition where I’ve taken ‘silver’, only I’m not allowed to mention it yet. The tension is killing me! More news when I’m allowed to blab.
* Although you can probably look it up on the Internet.