The wisest people tend to be those who are always watching, learning and building. Opportunities for observation is everywhere.
As a writer, I take things that are happening around the world and write about it to inform others. Before I write about a certain topic, I make sure to familiarize myself with what’s already known about it and then go deeper. Doing this isn’t terribly difficult because of the Internet, television and radio.
However, can a person truly grasp the full understanding of something if it’s not directly in front of them?
In a New York Times article, the question was asked whether a person can write a story of fiction about something they have never experienced.
Can a white man who has never experienced racism write a character who experiences racial profiling and discrimination? Can a woman who grew up in the United States write about the oppression of women in the Pakistan?
In the article, writer Kaitlyn Greenidge recalls being a graduate student and a Chinese-American man wrote a lynching scene and brought it to a workshop. After it was read and analyzed by fellow students, the professor asked the class if he had the right to write the scene. One of the students said “no.”
Greenidge expressed the anger she felt when this happened because, in her opinion, he did have the right to write that scene.
“Because he was a good writer, a thoughtful writer, and that scene had a reason to exist besides morbid curiosity or a petulant delight in shrugging on and off another’s pain,” Greenidge said.
If writers were allowed to only write about what’s in front of them, fiction could be incredibly boring. The whole point of fiction writing is to create a new, fake world and conjure up characters with individual personalities and stories that are believable to the reader.
Not every writer is going to have first-hand experience with every topic they cover. That’s why it’s a person’s job to educate themselves as much as possible before diving into a particular subject and making assumptions.
I think this lesson should be applied both during writing and daily conversations.
If you’re educated about something, you’re less likely to say something that could offend somebody.
When someone writes or speaks about a serious issue in a casual tone, people may get the idea that the person doesn’t really care about the issue and isn’t putting in effort to tell the story completely. As a writer, it can be difficult to relate to something you’ve never experienced or don’t know a lot about, but that just means there’s a whole new topic you get to learn about and then teach other people about.
Learning is fantastic and should make you feel better because you start to see the world from different viewpoints. There is always another way to look at a situation and you should always try to look at things from every angle in order to illustrate that situation in the correct way.
Email Laura Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org