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Writing What You Know VS Writing What You Imagine

Updated on April 23, 2017

There seems to be a great debate when it comes to writing what you know, versus writing what you imagine. I say, it’s B.S. It should never be either or, because if it was truly a matter of choice, we’d have to surmise you’d either have to have a great profundity of knowledge or a vivid imagination. I say it doesn’t matter because whether you use your integral knowledge or your imagination, they both require research.

The truth of the matter is, though humanities’ thirst for knowledge is unquenchable and insatiable, we long to imagine the impossible and the unfathomable. How else would we exercise our brains to make the irrational –rational, or even discover the truths and possibilities of what is unbelievable, and make them so? It’s best to draw on both imagination and your knowledge and experiences when it comes to writing, especially when it comes to the genre of fiction. What you imagine can always be supported by fact, as you usually always find facts to support both the existence of something and the non-existence of something. For example, if there are narwhals, could not unicorns have existed at some point?

I think imagination is more significant than writing what you know because it makes us stretch our reasoning to try to accommodate the notion of something existing; it resigns our conscious to spiral thoughts in a domino like fashion to draw on conclusions we would never make from a logical stand-point; in essence it exercises our brain far more than reading fact upon fact or what we already know to be a self-evident truth or common sense.

Perhaps imagination goes hand in hand with knowledge, a mirror-like reflection of each other, one being real, the other being a mirage or manifestation of the other. Could either exist without each other? Does one beget another? When it comes to writing, the use of both imagination and knowledge is practical in connecting to the experiences and thought processes of your reader, to make your story relatable and even understandable. Albert Einstein said it best, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Without knowledge, how could we begin to imagine? Without imagination, how could we apply our knowledge?


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