Subjectivity vs. Objectivity

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity

A Lesson by Miss Coral

Discussing on WHAT to write about.


There's a lot of debate on this topic. I'm not going to say that my opinions are completely, 100% true. But they're what I think, and affect how I write. 

Now, most people say, "Write what you know." While I think this is absolutely wonderful advice, it's too limiting. You can write about anything, everything, BEYOND everything. See, humans have this wonderful little ability called empathy. Empathy allows us to place ourselves in someone else's situation, and know how they would feel and how they would react. Now, this might be looking at that one little phrase and pushing it to an extreme, but many people do. They feel limited to writing about their own experiences, when you can write about so much more!

I've written many things, where people assume that I've gone through the experience that I'm writing about. They're shocked when I tell them I haven't. Now, obviously, I'm not a super excellent writer or anything. I've just gotten used to placing myself in someone else's shoes, and writing from their viewpoint. Even when that someone isn't real. It's really not difficult to do- you simply have to be willing to let go of some of your viewpoints, some of your opinions. Take on someone else. 

I take a class in school called "Comparative Worldviews". In this, we've learned about different worldviews, their "rose-colored glasses cemented on their face" if you will. We've studied Descartes, Voltaire, Kant, and even some Goethe. Descartes' thought are really key to this subject. We first had to learn what exactly a worldview is. To put it simply, it's how you "view the world". Yeah... circular definition of sorts. But that's really what it is. Everything you look at, you look at through your worldview. It's how your experiences, your memories, even your biological DNA shapes your outlook on your surroundings. Take this for example: a computer. You're on a computer now. It's a normal thing. Maybe you use one everyday. Maybe more. Maybe a whole lot more (like me). Now, a computer is going to be a completely normal thing to you. Now, let's take an Amish person, maybe a teenage in their Rumspringa, who has been introduced to a computer for the very first time. They're going to be amazed! Look at this wondrous machine, that creates light, music, that allows you to talk to people across the world instantly! Look at all the information! Maybe it's repulsive. Maybe it's godlike. But it sure isn't normal. 

Now, worldviews have determined the differences in the two reactions. It might be difficult to write from an Amish person's perspective, because you're used to some things, and you aren't used to others. It's not a bad thing, it's not even an abnormal thing. Everyone has this limitation; we're not omnipotent. We're human. But we have empathy to help us along. 

So, in conclusion, write what you want to write about. Sometimes, having experienced something DOES help if you're really having trouble. It's a good idea to research something really quickly, if you don't know much about it. But you don't need a biography in everything you write. Step outside yourself for a while, explore the world and the people around you. Have fun with it. :)

A nice exercise, if you aren't used to doing this, is to think of a character who is very different from who you are: maybe someone escaped from an insane asylum- maybe a simple Joe who hates his life and contemplates suicide in his cubicle- maybe a child, intent on jumping in as many puddles as they can, while their mother frantically runs after them. Try writing a couple of paragraphs in their viewpoint. Don't force it, just allow a different personality to shine through your writing. 

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Posted 4 Years Ago

I love what you have to say about "going outside the box to write and not sticking to just what you know. Just like the comment left by Weaver, I am a science fiction writer and of course I haven't experienced everything I am writing on. I have always felt that it is a good thing to challenge one self and use the imagination God has gifted us with.

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Posted 5 Years Ago

WOW. my account signed out, randomly. but that comment below is mine.

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Posted 5 Years Ago

The world would be insanely boring (as in, I'd go insane. Boring can't actually be insane.. can it? bleh, I don't know) if we all stuck to writing what we know. Though.. it's risky when you write about some subjects that you really don't know about. If it's a touchy subject to other people, then you may get yourself into some trouble :P Seen that one happen before.

I agree in that empathy helps us explore what we don’t know, but it also helps us take what we do know to the next level. Exaggerate it, if you will. Maybe someone is going through something, but maybe it could be worse than it is. If they’re able to play the worst case scenario in their head and write it, then it’s a lot easier to connect with readers and tug on their hearts. My poems are sometimes about the smallest things in the world (reason why I suck, number one), but I exaggerate everything based on other people’s feelings and extending my own. Makes a huge difference. That example also fits into the concise words and other fig. language sort of deal, but that’s a different subject.

In all, though.. it’s good that you can find beauty in things you don’t fully understand or haven’t been through. Makes writing more fun, that way. :)

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Posted 5 Years Ago

It's good that you challenge the common interpretation of "write what you know," because telling people to only write about what they have experienced directly IS too limiting. (I'm a sci-fi writer; clearly, I haven't personally experienced everything I write about.)
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Added on December 9, 2010
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Miss Coral
Miss Coral

Prague, Bohemia, Czech Republic

18 year old girl, third culture kid. I like writing and swing music. Probably not super active.