(camera focuses on Ranter; view of library shelves behind) I am well-aware of the writers’ adage, “write what you know”. I have been reading and writing for a little while now, and was also taught to write by some people who are/were eminently qualified to do such a thing.
(camera follows Ranter as she marches beside the shelves) There’s a certain logic to this adage; writers cannot write what they do not know. (Ranter pauses marching; camera tilts right) It would not be possible for me to write about a mathematician, because I have absolutely no clue as to what a mathematician does… or says… or thinks (I try my best to stay far away from such terrifying people). I would not be able to write about, say, Ancient China ’cause I wasn’t there. (camera tilts left) Try as I might, I could put no words upon the page.
(Ranter resumes marching; camera centres) There is this marvelous thing called “research”, though. Writers can read other people’s writing, and learn about the deep thoughts of a mathematician and the happenings in Ancient China. (camera and Ranter pause; camera focuses on Ranter’s upraised finger) (That is one reason why our culture invented the written language.) (resume marching) I do partake in research quite often, as I find my writing is far more interesting to me if I throw in something new.
(Ranter pauses marching; camera pans out to accommodate Ranter’s grand hand gestures) Writers also partake in empirical research. They leave the house, meet people they wouldn’t usually meet, do something they wouldn’t usually do. Sometimes when I do this, I just get myself in a place where I’m frightfully uncomfortable; sometimes I discover something New and Cool, and it becomes a part of me.
(Ranter resumes marching; camera follows) When a writer is told “you should write about something you know”, the writer is likely to take offense because he can do nothing else. The speaker is implying either that the writer is naive enough not to know/understand the adage, or that the writer does not know the subject/characters about which he has written. (Ranter stops marching; camera shakes as cameraman runs backwards) While writers are not generally known to be physically dangerous, reasonable distances are recommended if you insist on saying this to a writer.
(Ranter resumes marching; camera zooms in) Readers are not obligated to read anything. If the words on the page are potentially offensive, it is always possible for the reader to avert his eyes, and to pretend the words do not exist. The written word is so extremely pleasant because of this aspect. Listeners, though, may not have the opportunity to stop up their ears before the offensive words reach them. (camera tilts right) (Corollary: if one is inclined to begin a sentence with “No offense, but…” it would be better to write the words than to speak them as it would be fair reason to assume the listener/reader will take offense. If you have the audacity to do both, well… God help you.)
(camera centres, follows as Ranter changes direction) Perhaps we might consider creating a new adage: read only that which teaches you what you would like to know. If you do not want to know about a particular topic or person, do not read that book. By doing this, you would be assuming responsibility for yourself, rather than assuming the writer had a responsibility to provide you with only the things you wanted. (Ranter, camera stop moving) If you have just read an entire book of mine, and are in desperate need of heterosexual characters, you could either concentrate on the 17 clearly-identified heterosexual or non-sexual characters in the book, or you could… what do they call it?… oh, yeah, be proactive and not read the book at all. Should you feel at all inclined to spew out an adage right now, please re-read Paragraph 2. (camera shuts off, screen is black)
(Ranter’s voice continues to be heard) Jesus, Mary, Mohammed and Vishnu, but there are a lot of strange ones in this universe….