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How to Write on a Subject You Know Absolutely Nothing About

Updated on January 24, 2014

Introduction

Words matter. Without words, books would be only recycled trees. It's all good until dreaded writer's block descends. The coolest writers know how to continue writing. Conventional Wisdom suggests "write what you know." Herein we laugh at Conventional Wisdom. Conventional Wisdom can take a flying leap out a third story window. We expand on the coolest trick of all; writing on subjects about which you know nothing.

Here at the Writing Center for the Painfully Obvious, we endeavor to present topics that inspire writers to run to their studio, lock the door, and weep for the future of their craft. Is it Art or Science? We favor the term "ScienArt", which lets us off the hook without boiling down to actually meaning anything.

Write with your shoes off.
Write with your shoes off.

Settle on a Topic

Herein we tackle the age-old problem of pinpointing a topic. Laboring under the burden of "write what you know" tends to make this step slightly more difficult. Happily, we have freed ourselves from the shackles of foreknowledge. We prefer not to know anything, which is comfortable ground for most people.

Finding a topic is almost too easy. Walk through your house and be amazed at all the stuff you know nothing about. How does that TV remote actually work? Why is the thermostat set to 85 degrees? Where did those ants come from?

For illustration purposes our know-nothing-about-it topic will be the Banana Rat. Such a creature actually exists, but that hardly matters anyway. Feel free to Google it, or simply follow along as if you know nothing about it.

When in doubt, equivocate

When writing, the only absolute is that there are no absolutes. You have the unbridled freedom to toss out assertions that cannot be disputed, as long as you bridle them a little. For example, since the Banana Rat sounds icky because it has the word 'rat' it, you might be tempted to write "everyone hates the Banana Rat". That leaves you with nowhere to go. You might get a paragraph out of explaining how much the critter is despised and you'll certainly have most of your audience on your side, but you'll quickly find yourself at a dead-end.

Instead of globally condemning or extolling your topic, waver a little. Sit on the fence. Write something along the lines of "some cultures make a tasty meal of the Banana Rat." Your reader may be horrified, but nevertheless unable to dispute your assertion. We all know that somewhere in world somebody has eaten a Banana Rat, if only to get attention on the Food Channel. Instead of insisting that "everyone hates the Banana Rat", suggest that the rodent has been studied at universities and colleges around the world. You can't lose, as everything has been studied at universities and colleges around the world. Someone somewhere earned a PhD by spending a year living among Banana Rats. If you're fortunate, their dissertation no longer is available online.

Develop a list of waver-words; sometimes, perhaps, maybe, often, once in a while, could be, perchance, and probably many more.

Take a Contrary Position

Hold readers' interest by taking up a contrary but still vaguely defensible position.

"The Banana Rat makes a wonderful pet for young children."

At this point we've said nothing specific about the Banana Rat, nevertheless we can somehow make a weak case for keeping one as a pet.

Generalize

Write broad statements that apply to pretty much anything.

"Banana Rats live in different parts of the world."

"Banana Rats prefer concert recordings to studio albums"

"Banana Rats have never been found on other planets"

It's a simple matter for the accomplished writer to extrapolate any of these statements into an entire paragraph. Using this strategy, Thomas Wolfe cranked out entire chapters without breaking a sweat.

Easily Triple the Length of Your Article

The first thing they teach you at Official Writers' School:

  1. Tell them what you're gonna tell them.
  2. Tell them.
  3. Tell them what you just told them.

Follow this simple template to easily triple the length of your work.

Add more words, repeat if necessary.

I was struck at 691 words, this vignette put us over the top.

Some images may be courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/

Comments

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    • profile image

      4 years ago

      Whoa! 6 years?!? Hmmm...i hadn't realized this. Must keep digging...should be working.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      5 years ago from Ohio, USA

      I like this one myself. But still saddled with NOINDEX.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      A NOINDEX meta tag. Crap.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Tom Whitworth : LOL. Thank you for your kind words.

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 

      8 years ago from Moundsville, WV

      nicomp,

      What a great topic for a Hub. My hubs are a tribute to this subject!!!!!!!!

    • Mark Ewbie profile image

      Mark Ewbie 

      8 years ago from UK

      Hey Nicomp, just in case you were wondering this is the first time I read your excellent hub. Good example of writing about anything or nothing, but just free flowing.

      I appreciate your recent offer, but am declining politely as I'd rather any readers I get use my exit points if possible.

    • seanorjohn profile image

      seanorjohn 

      8 years ago

      Spot on. I remember doing a comulsory exam question for my politics degree on International politics. Unfortunately I had not attended any lectures or read any of the text books. It said "How can the contending approaches to International politics be reconciled". The fools had given me one fact to go on. I didn't even know there were contending approaches. I knew it used to be called International relations. So I got away with waffling about how it was inevitable that there would be contending approaches, it being a relatively new subject. Then I said that a greater danger lurked elsewhere such as falling into the trap sociology was in. Proliferation of jargon etc. I love it when I just have one fact to go on.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Oh, yes. It's because of the rats I wrote about. Rats ... pests ... Orkin. I get it.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      9 years ago from Ohio, USA

      So I visited this hub today and observed TWO banner ads from Orkin. Creepy roaches crawling on my hub! Hos did Google make that connection?

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      9 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @tinarathore84: Thank you! I don't know much about much. ;)

    • tinarathore84 profile image

      tinarathore84 

      9 years ago from India

      interesting...i guess that's exactly what most of the writers today doing..googling away to articles and articles and more articles..

      i particularly like your writing style...a subtle sense of humour. i'm sure i'll enjoy reading you..thanks for the hub.

    • PB_Smith profile image

      PB_Smith 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      No, please say it aint so.

      Three minutes? ok let me set my egg timer.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      9 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @PB_Smith: Blasphemy!! Hal is King Hubber.

      I hereby ban you from my hubs for 3 minutes...

    • PB_Smith profile image

      PB_Smith 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      You got the idea for this from reading Hal Licino's hubs didn't you?

      He is without a doubt the king of writing about things he has absolutely no knowledge of.

    • John Cain profile image

      John Cain 

      9 years ago from Dayton, Texas

      I found this hub to be very informational. Thanks for the input.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      9 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @drbj: Thank for for your kind words. If you found the "quit" link, then you already joined my fan club.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      9 years ago from south Florida

      Enjoy your writing - clever, provoking, humorous and often sardonic. Would like to be a fan but couldn't find an icon to join your fan club - only one to quit! Are you trying to tell us something. Whateve. Write on!

    • profile image

      Invited Writer 

      9 years ago

      Very funny, funny man. Now write something useful.

    • profile image

      Carla Michelle 

      10 years ago

      This is hilarious! And it is precisely what I needed to put pen to paper and write on a topic I know nothing about. If I wasn't getting paid for it I would simply brush it under the carpet. Dang deadlines anyways!

    • profile image

      paul2cool 

      10 years ago

      I was going to write a hub about the same topic ...guess you got everything covered here.I was going to use the word "rambling about nothing" ..

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      10 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @The Old Firm LMBRO

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      10 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      I thought you had, when you think of why the banana rat was so called by the erudite and civilised custodians of Guantanamo Bay.

      (......the smell of an oily rat?)

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      10 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @The Old Firm I could easily get a few paragraphs from the smell...

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      10 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @brad4l yep!

    • brad4l profile image

      brad4l 

      10 years ago from USA

      That format at the end is pretty much what they teach you in English classes in the states too, well at least English 111 anyway. Introduction, body, conclusion...

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      10 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      I smell an offensively noisome subtropical rodent.

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