|Yes, it is...a faked unicorn skeleton!|
As I slowly make my way through classes and textbooks and years of life, I realize more and more how very little I know. It's a backwards process: I think I understand something until I reach into it a bit farther and encounter a new plane of knowledge...then I realize I'd have to walk all the way across that plain as well, if I truly wanted to understand. Things are much more complicated than I thought. This is so entirely scary that I just feel like quitting...which obviously gets very little work done.
So I just have to fake it. No, wait, don't leave! Let me explain. To convince myself I can write something worthwhile, I have to fake it, at first. Two extremes have developed among writers: 1) Write what you know, and 2) write whatever bubbles up from your soul, man. I think writers learn during the writing process--we don't know everything right at the start. We learn and teach ourselves by writing. In fact, writing a book teaches the writer even more than it teaches the readers. In Madeleine L'Engle's book A Ring of Endless Light, the grandfather comments, "A poet friend of mine told me that his poems know far more than he does, and if he listens to them, they teach him" (70).
For a long time, I felt it was my duty to write only about what I understood very well so that my readers will understand perfectly, too. Now I know not to wait until I feel like I know everything (because I never will). In fact, even if I feel like I know nothing in the beginning, that's no excuse to shirk brainstorming and idea-gathering. It's actually the perfect motivation. Writing itself changes and teaches us, so there is no point in "waiting until we know something."
I'm not saying we shouldn't be researching or outlining for our work--that is a part of writing. What I'm saying is, don't be scared to dive in. And don't get bogged down in those things for a decade, either. Make sure you're writing things, small things, even. Poems carry little images and little truths. Essays develop truths. Flash fiction and short stories begin developing characters who learn and grow. You don't have to write a novel right off the bat. Writing small teaches as much as writing big.
I know more than I did when I started writing. Viewing life through the thoughtful lens of a writer teaches me more than I learned with my previously-passive eyes. So even when I write something that I worry isn't very good, I remind myself that the only way to get good is to keep trying.
And until I know, I fake it. That's the only way to push past the insecurity until I actually DO know. As John Truby says, we should "Write something that may change your life."
Truby, John. The Anatomy of Story: 22 steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. New York, NY: Faber and Faber, Inc. 2007. Print.
By Wilfried Wittkowsky (own foto / eigenes Foto) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons