I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, “I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say”; but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey, page 77
I’m not sure where the advice to “write what you know” originates. If I could locate it, I would pull it out at the root and then poison the ground from which it grew. You cannot know what you know until you’ve written it. As you write, you learn what you know—or, more likely, what you don’t know, which, let’s face it, is most everything. Ruefle’s distinction—“write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to” gets at the crux of it: you can listen even without hearing. That is, you can pay attention to something without apprehending it; you can vibrate with a sound without recognizing what that sound is. The distance between the listening and the hearing is traversed by the words you haven’t yet written.