Writing what you know [non-fiction edition 1.0]

 Or why I learn by failing 

Of late there have been a lot of topics that have taken my fancy to write about. Climate change, my favourite books/musicals/artists, Trump, Twitter… If you were to have a scroll through my iPad or MacBook [I promise I’m not that much of an Apple fanatic really!!], you’d find about 7 of these half-written pieces that have loads of brackets of things to add where I’m a bit unsure of what I am saying. Some of them do look complete: casting an eye over them, you’d see paragraphs of complete sentences, a quote scattered in here and there, and even a list of sources [I can’t stress enough how important sources are to allow your readers to read around the topic, too!] These won’t be published, though. At least not yet.

Sprinkling sources into your essay like

Why am I so reluctant to put these pieces out in the world? 

I am unsure of how credible they feel, unsure of my own ability to convey the information I’ve digested and, somewhere in my mind, I’m afraid of causing a ruckus [despite loving debate!] The underlying factor here is fear that if you dig down just a little bit into what I am saying, I’m concerned you’d find out I feel like a fraud. Yes, even when discussing my top 10 list of things.  

[Next to Normal tops your musical list? A rock opera? What’s wrong with you? You like My Chemical Romance most of all? But you’re not an emo, Rose. You listen to Lady Gaga and Imagine Dragons, don’t you?]

All of this is self-doubt. I know that if anyone were to challenge me I’d have a debate with them on the topic, and if they were right or made some great points I’d be ok with changing my mind. I also know that, at the time of writing, that was the best I could do. [*warning* humble brag alert] Reading around topics is something I love, and being able to combine and explain the information is something I’ve got a lot better at recently.  

Writing essays helped, but it was giving presentations that forced me into loving the preparation. For that, I blame Debating Matters and my UCL degree. There’s nothing quite like being in a room of some of the most intelligent people ever and watching their faces crinkle up and frown when you say something. Or, worst still, when the bombardment of questions come in that you can’t answer. You can never have too much preparation.   

Having said that, it’s not just the prep but the marshalling of facts, figures and quotes. So what if you know how many ties and golf clubs Trump owns, if you’ve been asked about the exact shades of his spray-tan and toupee then you’d best just answer the question. No-one likes a show-off when you’re limited by time, words or interest.  

This is a skill that, over the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to channel into my writing. The guide[s] I’ve put up [links to come] have garnered a great response. And you know what? I love writing them. As long as I am happy with which I have written and if it helps just one person then I feel like I have done a good job.  

Granted, I am not yet perfect, and probs never will be. There are loads of pieces that are rougher than sandpaper right now, but no-one will see them unless I want them to. There are some pieces which have got a meh or negative reaction that I thought were amazing. And that’s ok: I don’t mind failing, I learn something new from it every single time.  

A lot of this applies to fiction writing too: watch out for a future post about writing what you know [fiction edition].

Thoughts? Questions? Let me know! Email rredrosestudioss@gmail.com | Twitter @RosePandaDavis | Insta @_redrosestudios_


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