Write What You Know

the pillowman

“I think people who only write about what they know only write about what they know because they’re too fucking stupid to make anything up…”

This little snippet of wisdom appears in Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman”, and in a play of such obvious and apparent awesomeness, one tends to defer to the authority of the author.  After all, it was nominated for a Tony.  A TONY! Surely, the dude knows of what he speaks.

There is some mitigating context for this quote.  The play’s about a writer with a bizarre and sick sensibility, who writes blackly humorous– wait, this sounds an awful lot like Martin McDonagh.  Is he making a joke about the fact that writers always write about writers?  I hate that.  How many times have you seen a movie about a screenwriter, a book about a novelist.  It’s so intolerably self-centered.  (Sort of like every blog ever.)  Or is McDonagh leveling a legitimate criticism at himself; perhaps insecure about leaving the peculiar Irish dialect that made him famous?

And when an award-winning, Tony-nominated, excessively-hyphenated playwrite declares war against the classic “write what you know” adage, where is a wide-eyed, hero-worshipping, equally-hyphenated, young reader to turn?  (Christ, I think in loglines now.)

Maybe a line is just a line?

I’ve used far too many question marks today, and what once was a compelling line to me has become murky and meaningless from overthink.  For now I’ll take refuge in the use of the word “only” and attempt to strike a balance between creativity and what-i-know-itude.

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