Write What You Know?

   Everyone is stoked about the new season of Game of Thrones, including me. Though sadly I don’t get to watch it as soon as it airs. Why? I don’t have TV.

*crickets*

I have a TV… and movies, Netflix, Hulu… But we don’t pay for cable or Direct TV, etc.

While I could go into all the reasons why, I will not because this is not a post to discuss the evils of the mighty television companies and their exorbitant prices for crappy television and worse commercials. No, I promise I have another point entirely.

What I’m talking about today is twofold and Game of Thrones was just a conduit to this discussion.

My two points are as follows:

1)      I have to wait. This is anathema in today’s culture, especially amongst Millennials (though I begrudgingly admit that I belong to this group, but that’s another topic for another day). We want our cake, we want to eat it and we want it NOW. And it had better have chocolate, and come on a silver plate.

2)      Like Jon Snow, I know nothing. Though I think I know plenty. And it gets me in trouble.

 

You may find in reading on that you have a thing or two in common with me and perhaps with a few of your favorite GoT characters, as well as what to do with these somewhat unsettling self-discoveries.

 

The waiting game is hard. We’re all waiting for something. Be it as simple as waiting for the next episode of our favorite show, the next book in a series, a new music album… Or something a bit more complex and deep, dealing with life fulfillment (career breakthrough, love, life purpose, etc.)

                And we all suck at it. We want instant gratification. We discover something new and we want all of it, and if it doesn’t come fast enough, we lose heart, interest or both.

                Like Cersei Lannister, we might not care who or what gets in our way in our pursuit of our desires and goals. This causes us all too often, in the end, to have our darlings removed from us.

                Perhaps we are like Daenerys Targaryen. We have pride and swagger and we conquer our goals, but when faced with our own flaws we spiral into uncertainty and even depression (though we may only show it to the people closest to us).

                Like Arya Stark, we are young and naive and want things so desperately we are willing to throw ourselves fully into it, despite a phenomenal lack of preparation. This in turn leads to a much harder road to attain the discipline needed to achieve our goals. (quick note: I do not advocate assassination as a healthy means to attaining your goals…just sayin’.)

                My personal favorite is Tyrion Lannister, and unfortunately my downfall is similar to his. We are smart. (And humble. Just ask us, we’ll tell you.) We read, we plan, we organize and we calculate. But then we forget that we are smart and we run our mouths and get banished up shit creek without a paddle.

                And full circle to Jon Snow, we perhaps are so dedicated to our purposes that we often lack sight into the outside world, our own focus on a higher goal blinding us to what is going on in the bigger picture, though we are fighting for the bigger picture. This can cause much more heartache than entirely necessary and we end up fighting against our own goals by accident.

                Which brings me to my second point. I know nothing. We know nothing.

                In the age of instant gratification and the internet as a trove of knowledge, literally right at our fingertips… we quite often forget that we genuinely know so little.

                Even Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

                This thought went back to Aristotle and my money is on the fact that it went back farther than that… “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

                This concept is not new. What is new is a widespread desire to appear as though we do know.

                And I am included in this. It’s so difficult for me to admit when I don’t know something. Especially when I can just whip my phone out and google it. Though we did not attain this vast abyss of knowledge for ourselves, we claim we knew it all along, or perhaps even imply that we know all there is after a single article on the subject.

                Or you aren’t in the category of thinking you know it all. You may be so aware that we are utterly and deeply lost in the fathoms of the sea that is knowledge that we can’t even bring ourselves to formulate words. This is a different kind of narcissism all its own, and one that I fall into the trap of just as often as the former.

                This all sounds rather depressing and what does this have to do with writing?

                (Bear with me! I have two takeaways from all this, and they’re encouraging, I swear!)

                If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve heard the advice, “Write what you know.”

                How do we do that, when we are in the same sinking boat as Jon Snow? (Even if we insist we aren’t. Cough. Cersei. Cough.)

                We are either so consumed by our own selves and our stunningly underwhelming education that we are terrified by the mere thought of putting pen to paper and disgracing the page and therefore ruining a notebook (or taking up space on a computer) with our trivial thoughts; or we are enveloped in our glittering selves, impressed by how far we’ve come and we think that we’ve got a lot to offer, people should be grateful to hear from us. Or we’re a bit of both, depending on what day you catch us on.

                None of the above is healthy, or productive. (Take it from me. I can show you lots of blank notebooks and self-images of rocking back and forth in panic over writing something awful. I can also show you my skinned nose from falling flat on my face after I boasted about how much I knew, only to trip on my own tongue.)

Why aren’t these things healthy? Because it’s all about us.

But it isn’t. We just think it is. But it can’t be. Or we would never talk to other people, or learn from other people, or interact with other people. We would live on a one-woman (or man) island and die alone. Without even Wilson to keep us company. And if we’re alone, then no one would be able to read our book (or listen to our music, or taste our delicious food….or… insert your particular creative contribution to society here.)

However we approach our lives, (and whoever our favorite Game of Thrones character is), we need to understand two things. (Probably way more than that, but I can’t mention all of them or this post would turn into a book… and it’s already longer than planned.)

1)      Waiting is not bad. It teaches patience and discipline…no success comes without both things. Overnight success story? It’s only overnight to those of us just learning of the story. It took these people years, and failure after failure…and what was the ticket to their success? Patience and perseverance and a team of people that they had helping them along the way.

2)      We know nothing. But that’s actually okay. If we’re willing to admit it and realize it’s also healthy to learn. It helps us understand the world we live in, it’s people, cultures, and all the amazing and beautiful things that fill it up.

 

Don’t let lack of knowledge scare you. Don’t let it keep you from doing amazing things.

 

Be patient. Be humble. Read. (Not just Wikipedia, okay guys?) Learn. Talk to real people about real things.

LISTEN.

(There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth.)

After all that, we’ll know something, even if it’s a small something.

And then?

 

Just Write.

(And then share it with someone.)