Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Shit You Don't Know You Don't Know Can Kill Ya!

I found this linked via John Scalzi's Whatever blog. Steve Schwartz writes about the danger of assumed knowledge, and how the goal of education should not be about cramming as much knowable shit as you can into the "shit I know" category, but should really be about moving as much out of the "shit I don't know I don't know" category and into the "shit I know I don't know" category.

Confused yet? Well, click on this link to his blog to read Steve explain it better than I can. I'll wait . . .

. . .

Back? Well, even if you didn't read the post, here's why Steve's insight is so relevant to me and my writing. See, I have a lot of people praise me for my writing. They praise me all the time for stuff I feel I deserve no praise for. What some of my readers claim to be insightful, interesting, and original about (some of) my works, I see as embarrassingly under-researched, lacking, and hackneyed.

Some of these folks then get perturbed that I should knock myself so low, and caution that I should be more confident and upbeat about my accomplishments. These people want me to rush headlong into my writing endeavors and take on the publishing world by storm. They want me to write my novels RIGHT NOW! Because I'm just THAT good.

And to that, I always respond: no.

See, I'm a realist. I'm always saying to anyone who will listen that there are days I'm stupefied by how much I simply don't know. That this dearth of knowledge is perhaps the single greatest accomplishment I can safely lay claim to. Of course, what I have to look out for is to not let this revelation overcome me and freeze me in my tracks. I need to keep on moving forward despite knowing I don't know shit about writing.

And it looks like this might actually be a healthy attitude to have? Well, I always suspected so. And I guess I can count at least one other person who feels the same. Thanks for that insightful read, Steve!

For the record, I never trust anyone who is too secure in their own knowledge. Usually such people are society's greatest fools. Or history's greatest tyrants. Different side of the same coin, really.

I believe that the truly righteous man knows he doesn't know everything. But more importantly, knows he cannot ever hope to learn everything. And that all he CAN do safely is learn to know when he doesn't know something.

It's a tricky ability, that. I don't approach my own writing with the thinking that I know everything. And I don't approach it thinking I don't know anything. I write knowing that there are huge gaps in my knowledge base, and that being humble and asking for help is the best way to cover these gaps.

This last lesson is probably the best lesson a new writer can learn: knowing when to rely on the knowledge and expertise of others to supplement one's lack thereof.

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