Diary of a Reader-Writer: A Topic Unknown
October 13, 2012
The crisp lines of ink just barely off the press, the soft mustiness of age-old pages—these things are my addiction. I like very few things more than a good story, both reading them and writing my own. I compose papers for my college courses, I write novels that I aspire to one day have published, and, yes, I also get paid to write blogs for MCPL. However, despite my love for it, sometimes I get a little blocked and have issues coming up with topics for my writings. I can’t count how many times in passing that I’ve voiced the question, "What should I write about?" as a rhetorical musing. When asking questions like this aloud, occasionally, I’m answered with suggestions by people around me. Recently, one of the conversations that stemmed from this question involved a suggestion by a friend of mine that reminded me of one of the many maxims that was drilled into me in school: Write about things that you know.
I have completely abandoned this advice.
I understand the concept behind it, and I think that, especially for new writers, it has a sound basis. The idea is that if you only write about topics which you are knowledgeable, then your writing will come more naturally and with greater ease. This also prevents you from making faulty assumptions due to only having pieces of the picture. This is a safe logic...but a safe logic produces a safe writing. Safe writing gets boring after a while.
Instead, I suggest that you do the exact opposite—be dynamic. Write about something you have never heard of before. Try something new. Have you ever had the urge to read something outside of your comfort zone, to learn about something new? Reading and writing come from the same place. You learn by simply doing. When something catches my attention or curiosity, I pursue it. By writing about new things, it allows me to explore them more fully. It raises new questions that lead to new answers. Best of all, when I share what I’ve learned with the world, they have the chance to respond. Just like that, a brand new topic is pulled out of the shadows and brought to the forefront of people’s consciousness, and often that intellectual collaborative carries the idea far beyond its origin. By pressing towards with things you weren’t familiar with, you can often be introduced to a million things you never knew.
Oak Grove Branch