On David Foster Wallace, experience, writing

Write What You Know Is Wrong - Rino Breebaart
Note: this was written with the pre-rubberised Hermes (see below)


  1. Thought-provoking and nicely stated, thank you. I do think you're right -- relying on "experience" alone is bound to produce an impoverished work, if it's even possible. Experience comes to life only in the larger context of imagination, thought, judgment, speculation ...

  2. Thought-provoking and insightful. Thank you for this posting, it's the kind of typecast I treasure, employing our beloved mechanical scribes for the pursuit of higher purposes.


  3. I agree with where you are coming from.

    Writing within the boundaries of your own understanding, is to just write within your own comfort zone. I feel that writing should go beyond that and put your ego on the line, while letting you explore the world and ideas that you hadn't explored before.

  4. well written.
    and like the 3 previous commentors, i very much agree with your conclusions and assertations.
    experience should act as the springboard for the work of fiction. and then we can dive or fly or cruise or go flip backwards forward through time as we like.

    as for the DFW - talk about an intellect. certainly one of my favorite writers. Have you tried any Will Self? another one that you cant deny.

  5. Rino, I try to understand your point. Maybe the advise "Write what you know" is just confusing. I personally believe strongly in that old chestnut. But I do not believe that you have to experience something amazing before you can write about it or before you are able to write a "creative sentence". I think that "writing what you know" does not mean that you only write about things which really happened to you as they happened. It means that you write from past knowledge and make up fiction from there. But it is always made up, nothing really happened but it is made up from your personal knowledge. This is difficult to explain but important to good writing. You made in one post a very wise distinction that there is not a immoral or moral writing but good or bad. And writing about something that you do not know is just bad writing. It is just like talking about love and never having been in love with anybody. Or like you would get advise about travelling through African bush from somebody who never was in Africa. Or like writing about war and never having experienced one. That would be very academic writing, boring writing, cheating writing. A writer who creates from personal knowledge has a huge advantage over the one who tries to invent from nothing. It gives credibility to what he is trying to convey. And he does not make mistakes and so he does not have the need to rewrite things because of such mistakes. It is much easier to write from "what you know". Take feelings for example. If you write about somebody having fear, it is an advantage if you experienced real fear at least once in your lifetime. It does not affect any philosophical questions which may lie beneath the whole story. They may be not experienced, may be speculative or may be derived from hope or whatever. But the reader must find interest in what the writer writes and he must believe in that what he writes (both reader and writer must believe in it). And the best and easiest way to make the reader confident that the writer is not cheating him is writing from true knowledge.


Nice comments are welcome!