Writing what you know – a flaw in the concept

This was written in 2006 after a class in Iowa City. It is in defense of the writer who writes what they they don’t know, because they learn to know.

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To write is to learn.

If I am to write a thing, a word, sentence, structure, I must first know it. I can write the sentence, “…and then there were none” because I know the sentence. But what happens if I don’t know the sentence or word and write them anyway?

“facil palabras en los logos.”

I know parts of this, but not the sentence or meaning as a whole. It seems upon interpretation, in Spanish I would have “easy words in the…? There is a Latin word. Logos. Logos meaning gods?

The Greek word logos is interpreted as being relevant to logic; however, the sophists used the word to represent discourse and it has been used to represent speech, pattern and the underlying structure of the universe. The universe determined by logos or the The Word.

Word, meaning the breath of life in some circles and the breath of life, referring back to the spoken word. There it is again: the chicken and the egg paradox. Which came first, the word or the breath?

Back to my original sentence: “facil palabras en los logos.” I had no concept of the meaning to begin with, which disputes the beginning of my first idea that we must know what we write.

I can imagine the first writer, bent over and marking a spot in mud with a wedge-shaped instrument. There, at the floor of the literary universe was the first word, twinkling of understanding or inclination to understand what the shape meant.

Now I have an idea. A sure, small idea, but still if I am to use historical examples to acquire meaning from the word logos I am in a quandary, because the scholars disagreed through time.

Common use of the word logos in the United States is a reference to two very different ideas.

  1. Christian use dictates the use if the word logos as being in reference to the trinity, the Word first spoken by God “God is the Word” and Jesus Christ.
  2. Logos in reference to an icon. An icon representing any concept or idea of greater value or meaning than the original idea, but encompassed within an image.

So, what do I want it to mean? Shall it come to this? That I can determine my own meaning with no historical reference or allow myself to reference what I like? Are there no rules? Shall we use words with no discretion but our own and attach a meaning that is convenient at the time we are queried about it?

If true, this would mean I could write any sentence with one value in mind and change that value depending upon circumstance. If public opinion is against the original meaning of the sentence, I can say, “that’s not what I meant,” getting off the hook easily by re-defining what I wrote or said.

facil palabras en los logos.”

A literal translation: easy words in logic.

Logic meaning: idea, concept, pattern of thought or reason.

If we are to derive meaning from something, we must begin with the simple and slowly, surely move to the more complex (difficult?) to follow the steps of reason within that particular framework.

I will re-state my original thesis: To write is to learn.

The writer is a student. The writer studies words and thoughts of others and life and then processes the information until it has a distinct flavor—like any good food (for thought?). There are recipes the writer must follow.

In order to write, one need not know the meaning of individual words or concepts one writes about, but must have the inclination to find the meaning of those words and concepts.

* I must work for understanding rather than to just understand. A concept will not become clear because I want it to. I must explore the many facets of the individual concept for it to become clear. Writing is no lazy person’s vocation. It takes laborious concentration and moving around an idea presented to view it from every angle.

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