‘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