‘Beyond The Fields We Know.’
I’ve always loved this phrase. It comes from the works of Lord Dunsany, a nineteenth century writer said to be a major influence on the works of J.R.R Tolkien and Ursula LeGuin (among others), who used it to describe the location of the border of Elfland in one of his short stories.
To me it is something wonderfully evocative, speaking of that feeling I get when I’m somewhere new, whether in the looming Welsh mountains or on a dusty coast road in Morocco. I’m always interested in what lies beyond, what will be revealed in the next turn of the road or behind each misty peak.
I also think it can be applied to any situation in life where you are striking out towards something new, taking a risk. I believe a desire for discovery helps us stay vital as we grow older, keeping our minds working and tuned into the place from which ideas come, essential for any writer of fiction.
This carries on from my previous post where I discussed, briefly, the idea that we as writers are often told to ‘write what we know,’ the idea being that we can convey with greater accuracy those things with which we are familiar.
But I think that’s only the beginning. Of course it’s easier to write about a culture or surrounding you know well, but if all I wrote about was my own life and experiences, the books would be fairly short and possibly not that interesting, plus I’d run out of ideas pretty quickly. The challenge for me as a writer lies in taking steps beyond, building, as I said, on the foundation of what I do know to imagine a place I don’t, to immerse myself in a character and their surroundings as I tell their story to an audience.
So whether you’re starting out as a writer and are unsure about the journey ahead, or whether you’ve had an idea about a place you’ve never visited but are suddenly compelled to write about (whether real or fantasy), take the first step and see where it leads you.
Then, you are truly beyond the fields you know.
PS I hope to have a cover design for Oak and Mist to share with you all next week! Very excited…