You’ve probably heard the oft-repeated advice “Write what you know.” Well, this week we’re advising the opposite. We want you to write with abandon about something you DON'T know.
Sometimes wisdom lies in realizing the limits of one’s own knowledge or expertise. And sometimes truth is found by venturing into the unknown. "There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception," wrote the English philosopher Aldous Huxley.
This fertile territory was explored by the Indian poet Kersy Katrak (who—at the tender age of twelve!—was ordained as a Zoroastrian priest) in his poem "Malabar Hill."
I DO NOT KNOW MUCH ABOUT LOVE,
he wrote. "My father shaped my head and handed down / his large distinctive nose. My mother taught me facts / But left me little else."
So how do you go about writing what you don't know
? We are not asking you to research an obscure subject in order to write about it, but instead to consider the edge or boundary of your knowledge and then step over the precipice—exploring a topic, as Katrak did, from the point of view of ignorance. The piece could be a reflection on why you lack knowledge in the relm of your topic, or an exploration of your own thoughts and (perhaps) prejudices and assumptions.
This prompt lends itself to the big and small, the mundane and extraordinary, the concrete and abstract. Anything from "I don't know much about ice fishing" to "I don't know much about the secrets of the universe."
With Katrak and our own Grace Mary Potts as inspiration, write your own Unknown.
Step One: Finish the sentence “I do not know much about…”
Step Two: With this as your first line, write your own poem or paragraph of prose.