I have a new Facebook author page called Will Pascoe: Denver Quill. Please like it!
You may be thinking, “That’s kind of a silly name for a page.” And you are correct. I called it that for a couple reasons. For search purposes, my name needs to be in there. And I also needed to distinguish myself from a couple other “Will Pascoe” creative types out there. There is a conservative commentator named Will Pascoe and there is a liberal filmmaker named Will Pascoe. So I’m the Will who’s the Denver quill.
Moss Hart was a playwright and director most famous for his work in the 1930s and 40s and for his autobiography, Act One. Here he writes about his second major attempt to write a play:
I suspected one way I had gone wrong from the start; and forever afterward it made me more than a little leery of those golden nuggets of advice so capriciously tossed out by elder statesman of the theatre to credulous beginners, one of which I must have stumbled across and taken to heart: “Begin by writing of what you know best–do not wander off in fields that are strange to you. Take for your setting and characters only the places and people you know and stick to them.” So went this preposterous bit of dramatic wisdom, thereby discounting the vital and immeasurable quality that imagination gives to all writing, whether it be for the stage or anything else. Since this bit of nonsense had issued from the lips of a quite famous playwright, I had slavishly followed it, writing of a place and people I knew, but completely failing to allow imagination to riffle through the pages as it might have done had I chosen a setting and characters not so highly colored by my own attitudes and prejudices. I had simply set down what I knew best, and stuck to it. The play had verity; what it lacked was the breath of life and imagination–two necessary ingredients for what is usually called creative writing.
Hart wrote this in 1959 yet the “write what you know” conventional wisdom is still around 50+ years later. “Write what you know” is compelling — it sounds like common sense — but I’m with Hart. For the love of the gods, release the hounds of your imagination.