I'm writing a novel, the first draft of which can be found elsewhere on the site. Over here you'll find my thoughts about writing.

Knowledge versus... what?

On the Draughtman's Contract DVD there's an introduction by director Peter Greenaway. One thing that he said intrigued me: at art school, he was told to draw what he saw, not what he knew.

I wonder whether this would translate to writing. Write from experience, not from knowledge?

Thinking about this, I'm seeing some sort of connection between this and 'telling the truth' as Stephen King puts it. The knowledge that you have about the world is static, at least until new bits of data are added, or existing bits found wrong and discarded. Experience, even of the thoroughly familiar, is always filtered through perception and contemplation and thus always new, because you yourself constantly change over time. (Um. Well. This made sense when I was thinking about it while doing my shopping this morning.)

To continue my train of thought here - I wonder where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fits in. I remember reading somewhere that at the time of writing his Sherlock Holmes stories, most of which are entirely or partially set in London, Conan Doyle had never actually been in London. If I recall correctly his knowledge of the city came from maps, transport time tables and other secondary sources. And yet, though his London may not be fully accurate, it does ring true. So, was he writing from knowledge or experience?


This article was written after writing episode 77 of the first draft of my novel After the War.
After the War (77)

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