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Writers’ Wednesday

Written by Kirsten on October 28th, 2009

I love, love, love The Writer’s Almanac. I listened to several podcasts in a row on the way home yesterday, sometimes paying attention, sometimes just letting Garrison Keillor’s voice wash over me without trying to focus on what he was saying so much as how he said it. One quote, however, jumped out at me, and I wanted to share it here.

“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 (emphasis mine)

I’ve personally balked against the “write what you know” idea for some time, partially because the only things I know seem mundane and commonplace and who wants to read about anything that can be described in those terms? Really though, writing, for me, isn’t about what I write – it’s about what I learn from what I’ve written. More often than not, my writing is full of questions. Perhaps not so much here, but my more personal writing, my raw and unpolished and unpretty writing, almost always pleads for a new level of understanding, a moment of clarity, an epiphany. And sometimes, I even get it – through a process that begins with putting the questions down on paper. Certainly the revelations don’t always come right away, but often enough they jump out at me upon revisiting the piece a week, a month, a year later. So am I writing about what interests me? I guess I am – I’m interested in answers. To everything. All the time.

As book bloggers, we’re all readers, sure, but we’re writers, too. What are your thoughts on the above quote? Do you have a favorite quote about writing?

And, while I’m at it, I’ve decided this will be a weekly topic. Because as much as reading was my first love, writing is my passion. It deserves a day all its own. I’ll create a button for it and everything :)


6 Comments so far ↓

  1. Cristina says:

    I actually read a good variation on this idea and I’m hitting my head against a wall trying to remember the quote. I believe it had to do with not limiting yourself to what you know, but write what you imagine.

    Maybe it should be changed to write what you are passionate about.
    .-= Cristina´s last blog ..Home Spun comic strip #410 =-.

  2. Kirsten says:

    Your mission, and you MUST choose to accept it, is to find that quote!

    Sometimes if I write about what I’m passionate about, it requires an NC-17 rating… I think I’ll save those passions for another time and place – though I *have* already created for just such a possibility ;)

  3. Mare says:

    That is an amazing quote – simply because it rings true. What you’re interested in pushes you further, what you already know can limit you and your perspective, unless the point is to reflect on what you know after the fact. Keep on pushing!

  4. Shanra says:

    Mm, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has Issues with that sentence, tidbit of advice. My pet theory is that’s it written by someone who doesn’t know their grammar and meant “Know what you write” because, ordered that way, the advice makes sense. No?

    Although changing it to “Write what you find interesting” is a good adaptation too. ^-^ Going to have to remember that one. *nods*
    .-= Shanra´s last blog ..Kaspar by Michael Morpurgo =-.

  5. Carmen says:

    Hi! I just found your site through LibraryThing and thought I’d say hi. I love this quote by Annie Proulx.

    • Kirsten says:

      Carmen, thanks for coming by! I’m so sorry for the delay in my response; it’s been a crazy few months :) I loved the quote, as well – it really prompted me to think about the “why” and the “what” of my own writing.

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