Something about something


Know something about something. Don’t just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it around.

This remark, by the late Richard Holbrooke, eminent diplomat for the US government until his death last year, resonates with me. I wrote it down in a notebook and I think there’s a truth to it.

I don’t think it’s an easy truth. The older I get, the less certain I am about most things [note to self, read Montaigne, the book is by your bed; it’s the one with dust on it next to the Robert B Parker]. I find myself asking constantly, how do they know? and thinking that’s just the evidence we have now about everything from children to earthquakes via global warming/economic collapse and disease.

Worst of all, I frequently find myself spouting off about things on the basis of half hearing the news on the radio while slopping baked beans into children. Later, I find this counts for a degree in world affairs. Shut up I hiss to myself. You know nothing about the socio-religious structure of the Syrian officer cadre and why it makes revolution in Damascus less likely.

Trouble is, even I don’t want to discuss my areas of expertise at length.  The topographical imperatives of changing the duvet cover: why you must find the corners first or I’llbloodywelldoitmyself? Heart versus Radio 4 on the school run: when enough Adele is enough and you have to pull rank but it’s not fascism? The importance of repetition in family ritual: no you can’t watch telly/play on the computer: a naga saga?

None of this presents itself as interesting material for a novel. NOT EVEN TO ME AND IT’S MY LIFE.

I don’t want to write about what I know. I find it dull. (And yes, I do know, that someone somewhere is writing a bestseller on precisely this territory in a way that makes it breathtakingly powerful; this is constantly happening with ideas that I have rejected and I don’t know what to do about it.)

I do have an idea that’s tugging at my sleeve right now. The setting is a world away from mine and the research hurdle seems intimidatingly high. You know where this is going, don’t you? Yes, I’m stuck with having to know something about something. That Richard Holbrooke, he knew a thing or two about something.

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12 comments on “Something about something
  1. Fascinating discourse into the shadows of our minds! How about philosophy? Best you’d be good at that! Combine that with politics and you’d be dynamite! Ray Billington is running a course NEXT term in the continuing ed – Political Philosophy: From Plato to Nato. You might consider it. Ray is brilliant! I’m doing one with him this term (yes in conjunction with our program) on Introduction to Moral Thought. See you soon – hope you’re enjoying the summer. I’ll miss our 1st class as hubby and I are on hols in the Lake District. I’ll be thinking of you all! t/c

  2. Yeah, I always hate that ‘write what you know’ thing.

    I live it. I don’t want to write about it. And nobody, I am sure, wants to bloomin’ read it.

    My scathing account of a middle-class mother’s child’s birthday party went down well with u-know-who. ‘Likely to appeal to the 30-something female market’. Oh god.

    Save me.

  3. Thanks Nic, but you’re never coming to another one of the children’s birthdays. How very dare you … ~*huffsofftoWaitrose*

  4. p.s. don’t bother ‘finding the corners first’. Just send two children into the cavern of the king size duvet cover with one bit of duvet each.

    It’s the modern day quality-time equivalent of sending ’em up the chimneys. You wont see the kids for hours and if you’re lucky your duvet will eventually be suitably stuffed.

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