Write What You Don’t Know (Yet)

Write to discover what you want to say. Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

Note: This post was originally published on my blog in April 2008.

Right now I’m reading a book called The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. The author, Louise Erdrich, is one of my favorite writers. I first learned of her when I was a freshman at Dartmouth. About fifteen of us who’d designated creative writing as a potential major were invited to meet with her and her husband, Michael Dorris, at the Montgomery House, where they were living as fellows and resident scholars.

I don’t remember much about the meeting, except that they served tea, cookies, and chocolate covered strawberries. The authors gave us some advice, then invited us to ask questions. I’d never raised my hand to ask or answer a single thing in thirteen years of public education, but now, newly collegiate, I was surprisingly bold.

My question: “Everyone always tells writers to write what they know. But we’re only eighteen years old and nothing’s happened to us yet. What are we supposed to write about?”

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