Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing What You Know (Part 1)

Write what you know. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom. But what does it really mean?

I’ve seen plenty of media creators who seem to believe this means you should stick to the formulas you know, despite how harmful those formulas may be. (For an example of this, I can suggest the Tropes vs Women Series )

Considering that many of us have been raised in a culture that claims to “know” that women are less intelligent than men, people of color are more violent than whites, or trans*gendered individuals are just going through a phase, it isn’t surprising that we see these wrong ideas spouted back to us from the media we consume.

Sad, but not surprising.

Part of the reason why marginalization is so widespread is because wrong ideas about individuals who don’t hold privilege have been normalized. In everyday discourse and in media. The insidious thing is that these two sources feed off each other in a circle that requires energy and commitment to overcome.

But that energy sacrifice isn’t impossible to overcome.

As I’ve stated before, the key to rewriting what we “know” is to listen to the groups most affected by these ideas. Listening, truly listening, inevitably instills a sense of understanding in the listener. But that requires us to take the words of our fellow human beings at face value without attempting to validate the information we’re receiving though the lens of our own experiences.

The things each of us has lived through is not the whole of human existence. Recognizing that is the first step to learning.

So writing what you know is only half of the equation. The other is being willing to learn what you don’t.

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