‘Mine is the Hardest Task’

‘You speak of Lord Byron and me—there is this great difference between us. He describes what he sees—I describe what I imagine. Mine is the hardest task.’  — John Keats

One of the questions I think about far too often is ‘Where do all my ideas come from?’. Some of my ideas, especially those writing-related, seem to be offered to me by another being from an odd alternative universe. Many of my novel ideas are based on things I’ve never truly experienced, love, death and the many things in between. How then, can I write of them?

Some may argue I can’t, that because I haven’t experienced something first hand I couldn’t possibly write of it. And to some extent I believe this too, for a long time I followed the phrase ‘write what you know’ diligently. It’s only recently I’ve broken free.

I guess the real question is, ‘Where does knowledge come from?’. 

I do write what I know, I’ve found, but it’s not first-hand knowledge, it’s second, third or even fourth. Research is my best friend and using it I’m able to expand in what I write yet still write what I know, or at least that which I’ve looked into.

A couple of weeks ago now, I finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a novel I fell in love with after a solid hundred or so pages—Gaiman’s writing is not one I’d previously encountered and the mixed reviews I’d read made me a little cautious of it. Nevertheless I found myself identifying with the protagonist, Shadow, and eagerly turning the pages. I found, unintentionally of course, sections of text that seemed to directly address my questions.

‘All we have to believe with is our senses: the tools we use to perceive the world, our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.”   Neil Gaiman 

I believe we have more. Yes we have our senses, but we also have those of our friends and family and, thanks to the internet, strangers across the globe. Through our shared senses (our network) we can paint a more accurate picture of reality and then communicate it through various mediums, such as writing.

It’s as though we are all parts of a whole, a human Portuguese man o’ war.

Knowledge, then, is collective, ideas though? That still appears to be a mystery. How do you think knowledge is gained? From where do you think your ideas come from?


Photo by buiversonian


4 thoughts on “‘Mine is the Hardest Task’

  1. Anslem says:

    This makes me think about collective consciousness and even dna based memories, IE instincts, that have an unassuming yet noticeable affect on our lives. No one believes in the efficacy of teenage love, but it’s something that has happened to a million of our ancestors, and those experiences and memory gets passed down through our genes. So understanding human concepts and seeing them in action around us and through us is an experience in itself whether directly or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jannakaixer says:

      I hadn’t even started thinking about that but now that you mention it I basically described collective consciousness towards the end of the post. I find instincts and the potential of DNA based memories fascinating – something I’ll have to look into more as I’ve barely grazed the surface of the available research. Teenage love is a strange one and to be perfectly honest I too doubt the efficacy of it, especially having never experienced it myself. Our genes are still a mystery, so much of our DNA has been dubbed ‘junk DNA’ too, it would be curious to find out what it’s all for, if it has a purpose. I love the idea of indirect exposure to something counting as experience, I’m not too sure I agree with it but it’s definitely something worth thinking about further.

      Thank you for the read and comment!



  2. dragonflylady77 says:

    I am not sure where I get my ideas from. Most of the times I get plot ideas for things Bree Guildford is writing (my wife’s pen name 😉 ). We’ll be talking about something and I’ll go ‘Oh!’ and she pester me until I tell her the idea I just got.

    I think everything around us can contribute, real life stuff, interaction with people, things we read or watch or even dream… It’s easier these days to do research on a subject than it was, say, 20 years ago.

    I think you might find this post I found a couple of weeks ago interesting : http://passionatereason.com/2014/12/24/what-kinds-of-experiences-does-a-writer-need/


    • jannakaixer says:

      I’ve found the same thing with friends/family – talking about things with them can trigger all sorts of ideas, though only a small amount are ‘good’ ones.

      Very true, I hadn’t quite thought about that, I guess I’m not, or at least I haven’t been in the past, too aware of the things outside of my little bubble of family and friends which is absolutely awful though I suspect (and hope!) it’s a ‘teenage’ thing (though I do hate the idea!). It’s definitely much easier to research nowadays, not that I know any other days, but there’s so much junk to sort through, you really need to know how to find what you’re looking for.

      Thank you for the link! And the comment!


      Liked by 1 person

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