Knowledge Vs Experience in Writing

It’s been a while since I’ve written a proper post but as I have stated in my last update, I had a pretty good excuse. Becoming a parent changes everything in your life and not just how often you have to do laundry or when you can drink hot tea in peace.

There have always been debates on knowledge versus experience. I personally think both are important but they have different effects and impacts on life. Knowledge opens your mind, prepares you for experiences you have yet to go through or experiences you may never know because of geological, cultural, physical, social, financial limitations and more. Knowledge also provides a safe place to debate, discuss and allows you the time to think of multiple angles and view points. Knowledge, coupled with experience can be used as a translation tool to help others understand a particular situation: “Remember how scary it was to go to a new school and meet new people? That’s what its like to start a new job, they have the bullies and the popular ‘kids’ too.”

Experience on the other hand is the more powerful of the two. Nothing beats first hand experience – this is where knowledge is born after all. When it comes to the chicken and the egg debate, experience is the first fish that walked on land. Experience is physiological and emotional, as well as psychological – it’s primordial. When humans began collecting knowledge, it all came from first hand experience – someone had to get chased by that mammoth, would-be farmers needed to work by trial and error until they perfected agriculture and observant geniuses experimented until their imaginings turned into reality such as the first carving of the wheel. Nowadays, with the vast expanse of knowledge out there, people can live with minimal experience and an abundance of knowledge – which I believe, makes life a little less joyful.

I’ll be honest, I was afraid of having kids but just as they say, if you really want to swim, then take that plunge rather than walk in slowly. Everything everyone has ever said to me about having a child turned out to be true. Pregnancy was terrible, actually it was much worse for me because of some complications, the exhaustion is real, I can see why sleep deprivation is a torture tactic in times of war and don’t let me get started on the heart-wrenching screaming a baby can get into. But…and this is a strong but, you find a love like no other when you see your baby light up every time they see you. It is an experience that sends you through a door to another room that you previously could only look into through a window.

Having a child changed the way I viewed stories with children. The movie or novel with a lost or dead child sends shivers down my spine. I can see how readers with children can be affected to a different degree from their child-free counterparts. Apart from the horror stories, there is also a funny side – I can laugh harder (and sometimes cry) at the whimsical tactics children get into in comedies. Looking at this experience from a writer’s perspective, having your own children makes it easier to write about them. As many writers say, “Write what you know.”

Now that I’ve said that I’ve opened up another can of worms. Writing what you know makes it easier but it is also limiting. That is why I believe both first hand experience and knowledge is important. Yes we might get a little less flavour in a story based on an experience the protagonist goes through when the writer had not, but would we always know it is lacking? Secondly, fantasy and science fiction stories would never exist if writers solely based stories on their own experience. Knowledge passed on from others expands the writing world in directs that would never have existed. You do not need to have children to write about them, you do not need to be a cyborg to imagine the life of one and you do not need to limit your life and experiences to basic means. That is one of the reasons why I recommend watching youtube videos and documentaries of places and people that you have never seen – it’s the next best thing to enriching your writing when faced with a lack of opportunities.

For centuries, writers have borrowed other people’s lives to enrich their writing. Going back to the science fiction example, if I wanted to write about a cyborg, I could chat to an amputee with a prosthetic limb to record their emotions and struggles. In the world of nonfiction, babysitting is a great way of learning about children. All-in-all, whether it’s first hand experience or knowledge, a writer can enrich their writing by seeking out the ingredients they need to create great works of literature.

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