Write What You Know

I always felt that the title of this post was the worst piece of advice ever given.  What if I want to write science fiction? or fantasy? or noir detective stuff?  I don’t “know” any of those things, but I like those things and might want to try my hand at them at some point.  Even more, writing what I know seems particularly boring.  I’m a middle-aged, over-educated, slightly overweight white dude.  I don’t want to read anything about that, let alone write about it.  And while my dissertation hit pretty close to the mark (it’s about AA, I’m in AA, you get the picture) much of what I wrote, including my master’s thesis, (it was about Negro League Baseball) had very little to do with what I know.

In the last couple of weeks though, I had a few realizations.  I finished up a blog and just thought, “that was fun.” I sometimes forget that, that this is for fun, blogs in particular, writing in general.  More to the point, or writing what I know, it’s probably better to say writing how I know.  I’ve done a ton of academic writing.  I’m not sure how particularly good or bad any of it is, but it is what I know, and it can be fun too, especially when I’m starting on something new.  Which was another realization.  I’m at the very least, proficient at reading information and synthesizing it into a coherent work.  That is how I write.  That is what I know.

Thinking of this, writing how I know how to write, has led me to a new project.  It is slow going so far, but it is going.  I’m making progress on something that has been in my brain for at least seven years.  How am I measuring progress? Through research, by the notes I’m making in margins, by the questions that keep popping up as I continue.  The great part, I mean like super-duper great, is that this isn’t for an academic audience, this new project, far from it.  I don’t need to dig into loads of sources, take research trips, and especially have it reviewed by anyone.  Eventually, if I finish, it will get read and reviewed and probably critiqued pretty harshly.  That’s ok, I’ll be moving on to the next project.

After all of these years, of believing that academic writing and other writing were related only by time at a key board, I’ve finally figured out that isn’t the case at all.  I like to write.  I do it best in a particular way.  When blogging, the source material happens all around me; Phish, running, baseball and the list goes on.  I’ve always wanted to write longer stuff too, and didn’t realize until now (a little late) that I’ve been doing it for a long time already.  Now, going forward, I don’t have a grade to get, a committee to please, or any real academic goals.  I can, oddly enough, move along at a faster rate, but still at my own pace, which is pretty slow.  My goal is simply to enjoy it.  I tend to enjoy things more when I finish my goals.  Whether or not it is a “success” isn’t a huge concern.  It’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but research and writing is where I’m happiest.  I knew all this education was good for something.

It's what I know
It’s what I know

Blog Update:  You may have noticed a thing or two is different over here.  I finally figured out how to change my background, instead of that blue background.  I also went through the links I have listed and took out quite a few.  I hadn’t checked in on a lot of those sites, so it wasn’t a surprise to find out some were gone, might as well be gone or require a login now.  As of now I’ve kept the few celebrity blogs I still read, but honestly I think they will be the next to go.  Neil Gaiman and Joe Posnanski don’t need links from me.  I’d rather link to folks that might not be on the radar.  Also, if ChicagoNow is any indication, the best way to build a blog following is to follow and interact with other bloggers.  Finally, I changed my tag line too.  Pretty much all of my sports content has moved over to ChicagoNow at Sox and Stuff.  Feel free to stop on by.


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