Writing about what you don’t know (2)

Writing about droving and farming in 19th century Australia from a flat in north London?

… is quite a challenge, believe me, especially when the writer barely knows a heifer from a ewe.

sheep-droving
Sheep droving, after a fashion. (Yes, I have been on an Aussie farm)

I first blogged on this topic a year ago; I was about to embark on my latest oeuvre about my great great grandfather, who was a pioneer farmer and stock and station agent in remote 19th cenury New South Wales. I’d been putting it off thinking this is completely beyond me, but then I was reminded that that is precisely what I said about my first book The Worst Country in the World, about my original Australian ancestress.

G M portrait
George Matcham Pitt, my great grandfather

I am not saying I have cracked it, but there are positive advantages to writing about unfamiliar topics, and the most obvious one is:

If you can take an unfamiliar subject about which you know nothing and find it interesting, then it should be possible to make it interesting to your readers.

We’ve all picked up a newspaper or maybe glanced at someone’s blog and found ourselves drawn in to a topic we didn’t think we had any interest in. It’s called good writing of course.

cows
These are cows

There’s another advantage: whatever I’m writing about there is no pretence. I am looking at things like cattle droving for instance with the fascinated and sometimes bemused eye of the outsider. Do cattle really behave like that? What do you mean all sheep are not the same?

rabbit-proof-fence
Rabbit fence

To see what I mean take a look at my chapter on The Drover. I’d be interested in your comments.

Patsy Trench
London, 2016

patsytrench@gmail.com

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