Uncooked Books: Why It’s Okay to Write What You Think You Don’t Know By Carol L. Skolnick

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One of my favorite lifelong non-writing excuses has been, “But I’m not cooked yet.” Although I showed promise as a poet, humorist and playwright as early as age 10, and had some essays published in my twenties, I largely delayed my writing career until after 40.

It wasn’t for lack of talent, I reasoned, but lack of anything important to say. Before I had loved and lost a whole lot, struggled for many years on my spiritual path, experienced the death of both parents, and lived long enough to “know something,” I didn’t feel that my insights were solid enough to share or that my life experience was interesting enough for others to read. It was a form of reverse arrogance, beyond market sensibility; I was so very much in my potential readers’ business that I was deciding what was interesting and important for them!

Imagine if every writer were this hard on themselves. We’d be deprived of all those words that have inspired, entertained and moved us through the ages. What if John Keats and Rimbaud, both of whom wrote prolifically as teenagers and died well before their thirtieth birthdays, had thought themselves too immature to make known their youthful poetry? What if all those amazing first-novelists whose second novels never saw print had waited until they were more “seasoned” to submit their initial manuscripts? What if the authors of self-help books had to have the perfect life before they shared their life lessons with us?

Heck, what if the author of the Psalms had waited until his depression lifted?

In other words, you don’t have to be a done deal to put it on paper now.

You may ask, “Okay, if I’m not practicing what I preach, how is this authentic writing?” How is it not? I’m a great believer in the concept of “you spot it, you got it.” This snappy phrase is often used to describe the judgmental mind: as our kids like to chant, when you point a finger there are always three fingers pointing back at you. True enough; and it also stands to reason that if you are able to write about something that is not yet fully your experience…it still must be your experience because how would you know what to say?

You know those “ahas” you get when you read the words of others who have crystalized your truth in their writings? It’s not because it’s new and different; it’s because they are speaking your language. They’re telling you what you already know…what we all know.

So let’s say you want to write a book about succeeding in business…and you think you are not a success yet. Can you absolutely know that every author of every “how to succeed” book was a success before, during and after the book’s publication? Donald Trump’s business endeavors are forever going bankrupt…and his books are always successful. Many a struggling “consultant” has reaped the career benefits of authorship. Most of those “experts” who give keynote speeches and workshops sponsored by big seminar companies wrote a book before they achieved “expert” status.

Maybe you have a lot of good stuff to say about romantic relationships…and you’re not currently in one. What can you possibly teach people? Try this: as a single person, what have you discovered about what works and what doesn’t in relationships? What can we glean from your mistakes? We teach what we need to learn. One of the authors of the bestselling dating book The Rules divorced not long after the book’s publication. This didn’t stop her from co-authoring another book on the subject of relationships. Suzie Orman’s books about financial freedom became outdated when the stock market went south. Instead of letting herself become a has-been, she wrote a new book about where to go from here. I can guarantee she lost money along with the rest of us, and…we teach what we need to learn.

I have written many articles about spirituality and personal growth, and I am hardly a guru on a mountaintop. While my written work is uplifting, or so they tell me…and I have helped many people in my work as a facilitator of a self-inquiry process…I still get depressed and derailed sometimes, as most of us do. How is it possible then, for me to write about clarity and happiness? Because the truth is the truth, and it comes from a Source for which I cannot take credit.

Often, in the process of writing, I come up with true-isms that I didn’t even know I knew. That I don’t always live out of my truth does not mean that I must squelch it. I’m very honest with my readers and clients about my shortcomings, and they appreciate it.

As Marianne Williamson, a writer after my own heart, has said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

I am not saying to throw out your research, or to write out of total ignorance. In fact, to know that you don’t know will make for better writing. To admit innocence spurs us to work harder, find the facts, and get honest wtih ourselves. It is not an excuse not to write. To hold back out of some false sense of humility serves no writer…and no reader.

Carol L. Skolnick is an award-winning author of creative nonfiction and inspirational essays, and writes a column for the Women’s Independent Press. She is currently at work on a self-help book about spirituality and depression. Visit her online at: http://hometown.aol.com/sput6